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Data Shows Taking Heartburn Pills During Pregnancy May Be Linked to Asthma

Published on: 1st June 2017

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Public Health
Case Study 29

Project Lead: Prof Aziz Sheikh, University of Edinburgh

The Challenge

Heartburn is caused by stomach acid passing from the stomach back into the oesophagus – the tube that connects the stomach to the throat. The condition is very common in pregnancy because of hormonal changes and pressure on the stomach from the growing womb.

Asthma affects over 5 million people in the UK, and one in 11 children is suffering from the condition. While there are many theories about the cause of asthma, there is no definite known cause.

The Research

The researchers, led by the Universities of Edinburgh and Tampere in Finland, looked at eight previously published studies that examined the possible link between heartburn medication and allergies. These studies used health databases to link information about more than 1.3 million children and their mothers.

The Results

By looking at the data collected in eight studies, the research team found that children whose mothers had been prescribed medicines to treat acid reflux during pregnancy were at least one third more likely to be treated for asthma in childhood.

The Impact

While the research team have found a connection between heartburn medication and asthma in childhood, this does not mean that the pills cause the asthma. For example, there could be a condition that causes both heartburn in mothers and asthma in children. More research is therefore needed to understand this link, and it is important to stress that expectant mums should continue to take any medication they need under the guidance of their doctor or nurse.

More information about asthma:
Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research (AUKCAR):
Asthma UK: www.asthma.org.uk

Devine, RE, McCleary, N, Sheikh, A & Nwaru, B 2017, ‘Acid-suppressive medications during pregnancy and risk of asthma and allergy in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis’ Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2016.09.046

Enquiries to Sabine Kurz, Communications Assistant, The Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, sabine.kurz@ed.ac.uk

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