Skip to content

    Health & Pregnancy

    Font Size

    Mom’s Heartburn Meds Carry Asthma Risk?

    Children Whose Mothers Take Prescription Acid Blockers More Likely to Have Breathing Disorder, Study Shows
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    March 18, 2008 (Philadelphia) -- If you're one of the millions of women who suffer from heartburn during pregnancy, a cautionary note: New research suggests that some acid-blocking drugs used to treat the condition can raise the odds that your child will develop asthma.

    A review of data on nearly 30,000 children shows that those whose mothers took prescription acid-blocking drugs during pregnancy were 51% more likely to suffer from wheezing, breathing difficulties, and other symptoms of asthma.

    The researchers looked only at heartburn drugs, including H2 blockers like Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac, and proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, Protonix, and Nexium.

    Over-the-counter antacids such as Tums, Rolaids, and Maalox were not studied.

    Limit Use of Medications

    Women who have taken the drugs during pregnancy shouldn't panic, says researcher Elizabeth Yen, MD, a child health specialist at Harvard and Children’s Hospital Boston.

    "Much more study needs to be done," she tells WebMD.

    At the same time, pregnant women should limit their use of the medications, Yen says.

    The medications should only be taken "if you're having persistent heartburn that is interfering with your quality of life. And even then, always check with your doctor first," she says.

    Heartburn Strikes 1 in 2 Pregnant Women

    More than half of all pregnant women report symptoms of severe heartburn, particularly during their second and third trimesters. Heartburn is typically a burning sensation of the esophagus, most commonly linked to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux.

    Yen says previous studies have shown that "if you give acid-blocking drugs and test someone's blood, there is evidence of immune system chemicals called cytokines that set you up for an allergic reaction."

    To determine if there was a link between taking the drugs in pregnancy and childhood allergies or asthma, the researchers analyzed data from three Swedish national health care registries.

    The registries included data on 29,490 children, aged 2 to 11, who had been discharged from the hospital with a diagnosis of allergies and/or asthma. A total of 5,645 of the children had been exposed to acid-blocking drugs in the womb.

    There was no link between taking acid blockers in pregnancy and food allergies, hay fever, or other allergic diseases except for asthma.

    The findings were presented here at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

    Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

    Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
    what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

    Today on WebMD

    hand circling date on calendar
    Track your most fertile days.
    woman looking at ultrasound
    Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
    Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
    The signs to watch out for.
    pregnant woman in hospital
    Are there ways to do it naturally?
    slideshow fetal development
    pregnancy first trimester warning signs
    What Causes Bipolar
    Woman trying on dress in store
    pregnant woman
    Woman looking at pregnancy test
    calendar and baby buggy
    dark chocolate squares