Acid reflux is common during pregnancy, but scientists are starting to get concerned about a potential link between medications prescribed to pregnant women to treat this condition and an increased risk of childhood asthma.
Previous theories on the connection between acid reflux medications and increased risk of allergies for babies consist of some sort of influence on the immune system. A link has yet to be fully flushed out.
From the University of Edinburgh, researchers investigated a series of studies involving more than 1.3 million children. They looked at healthcare registries and prescription databases from eight previous studies. Babies born from mothers who were taking medicine for acid reflux while pregnant were around one-third more likely to report symptoms of asthma.
Drugs commonly prescribed for acid reflux include H2-receptor antagonists and proton pump inhibitors, although these drugs have long been determined safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies.
"We don't yet know if the heartburn medication itself is contributing to the development of asthma in children, or if there is common factor we haven't discovered yet that causes both heartburn in pregnant women and asthma in their children,” said Dr. Samantha Walker from the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research.
Pregnant women often experience heartburn or acid reflux due to hormonal changes or pressure on the stomach from the growing fetus. The “heartburn” sensation is caused by stomach acid that is regurgitated from the stomach to the esophagus, a channel that connects the stomach to the throat.
Researchers are calling for more studies to be done before they change recommendations for pregnant women with acid reflux. "Our study reports an association between the onset of asthma in children and their mothers' use of acid-suppressing medication during pregnancy,” professor Aziz Sheikh clarified. “It is important to stress that this association does not prove that the medicines caused asthma in these children and further research is needed to better understand this link."
The present study was recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Source: University of Edinburgh