Taking heartburn drugs in pregnancy may lead to asthma in children

Heartburn is a real problem for pregnant women. Taking heartburn medication can provide welcome relief. However, a new study has suggested that children born to mothers who took acid-suppressing drugs during pregnancy may have an increased chance of developing asthma.Heartburn tablets

What causes asthma?

The authors of the study -- from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and the University of Tampere, Finland -- previously noted that a child’s tendency to develop asthma “...is at least partially established before birth, resulting from the interplay between genetic predisposition and environmental exposures.”1 Though there are many risk factors for asthma, in this new study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Rebecca E. Devine and colleagues looked into one particular environmental exposure; whether a mother took heartburn medications, also known as acid-suppressing drugs, while pregnant.

More likely to visit a doctor with symptoms of asthma

Eight different studies comparing the risk of asthma for children of women who took these drugs while pregnant with children whose mothers didn’t were compared by the researchers to see if there was any link. Results of the analysis did show that children whose mothers had taken acid-suppressing drugs were one third more likely to visit a doctor with symptoms of asthma.

However, the authors highlight that the analysis of these studies does not confirm whether the asthma is linked to the heartburn drugs or heartburn itself. There were also other factors, not controlled for in the studies, such as obesity in expectant mothers, that may have contributed.

Advice to pregnant women doesn’t need to change

Prof. Seif Shaheen of Queen Mary University of London, who has reviewed this study says “Advice to pregnant women does not need to change on the back of these latest data...”

If you have heartburn and are pregnant, it’s important to continue to follow the advice of your healthcare team, and to continue to take any medication you need under the guidance of your doctor.

What to do about heartburn

If you’re not pregnant, but often get heartburn, Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr Simon Mark Greenfield, has some suggests that might help prevent it:

  • Don’t eat and then slouch.
  • Avoid late meals, snacks and drinks before bedtime.
  • When bending after a meal keep your back straight. For instance, be careful about stooping when gardening.
  • Avoid eating cheese.
  • Avoid eating chocolate.
  • Limit the amount of rich/fatty foods you eat.

For more information on heartburn read Heartburn: causes and remedies



1 http://www.nature.com/articles/npjpcrm20161

2 http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(16)31316-1/abstract



A respiratory disease featuring attacks of breathlessness and wheezing due to inflammation and narrowing of the upper airways. There is often an allergic component. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
Relating to the genes, the basic units of genetic material. Full medical glossary
An element present in haemoglobin in the red cells. Full medical glossary
Excess accumulation of fat in the body. Full medical glossary
the period from conception to birth Full medical glossary