Pregnant women often suffer from heartburn, and many turn to over-the-counter or prescription antacids to tame the burn. But a new study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that using common acid reducers may cause asthma in their offspring.
Hearburn is common in pregnant women because the hormones that relax the muscles in pregnancy to make room for the growing fetus also relaxes the stomach valve that keeps acid out of the esophagus. Plus, as the baby grows, the uterus expands, crowding the stomach and forcing acid into the esophagus.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as Prilosc and Nexium), as well as H2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs), such as Pepcid AC and Zantac, are considered safe heartburn treatments for use in pregnancy. But researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Tampere in Finland say that the treatments may increase the risk of allergies in the fetus by affecting the immune system. Their analysis involved eight studies including nearly 1.3 million children.
The results are inconclusive, but concerning, considering the number of pregnant women who rely on heartburn meds to quell the burning in their chests. Researchers suggest pregnant women discuss concerns with their doctors.
“It is important to stress that this association does not prove that the medicines cause asthma in these children and further research is needed to better understand this link,” the scientists added.