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Heartburn medication during pregnancy linked to childhood asthma

Children whose mothers take medication to treat acid reflux during pregnancy have a greater risk of developing asthma, latest research suggests. 

Women often experience heartburn during pregnancy, but need to be aware of possible effects of acid-blocking drugs. Picture: Alamy

Previous research has suggested that using these medicines during pregnancy can increase the risk of allergies in unborn babies by affecting their immune system, but studies investigating the link have been inconclusive. 

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and University of Tampere in Finland carried out a review of eight studies involving more than 1.3 million children. They also examined healthcare registries and prescription databases linking information about mothers and children.

The researchers found that children born to mothers who had been prescribed acid-blocking drugs during pregnancy were at least a third more likely to have visited a doctor for asthma symptoms. 

Link not conclusive

However, they cautioned that the potential link is not conclusive, and recommend that expectant mothers follow existing guidelines and consult a nurse or doctor if symptoms persist. 

‘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,’ said study author Aziz Sheikh, co-director of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research at the University of Edinburgh. 

Devine R et al (2017) Acid-suppressive medications during pregnancy and risk of asthma and allergy in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2016.09.046

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