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Can Reflux medications taken during pregnancy cause Asthma?

A new study indicates that moms who took reflux medications during pregnancy may increase the risk of having a child with asthma symptoms. The study, presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology this week examined the health records of 30,000 children. It was found that mothers who took prescription reflux medications such as H2 blockers (Zantac, Axid, Pepcid, and Tagament) and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s) such as Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, and Aciphex were significantly more likely (51%) to have a child with asthma symptoms such as wheezing. The study did not look at the effect of taking over the counter antacid medications.

It is estimated that approximately half of all pregnant mothers experience reflux symptoms during pregnancy. However, my own survey of moms indicates that the statistic is closer to 100%! My small frame combined with over sized babies gave me my first real experience with what heartburn and reflux felt like. I remember eating like a bird and propping up my pillows at night so I could sleep. Along with stretch marks and hormone swings, I accepted heartburn as part of the package deal.

It is a bit complicated following all of the health guidelines during pregnancy. It’s not like long ago when a very pregnant Lucy Ricardo sent Ricky out to buy ice cream and pickles to satisfy her cravings. Now there are so many recommendations for vitamin intake and restrictions on eating during pregnancy. Gone is the morning cup of coffee filled with caffeine, the glass of wine with dinner and there is even a new recommendation to limit eating certain kinds of fish. Pregnancy is also when we experience our first maternal guilt for “causing” a health issue that will affect our babies.

I am sure this study will stir a lot of debate and cause many mothers to pause before taking prescription reflux medications. Pregnant mothers with heartburn may want to try some of the lifestyle changes that help reduce symptoms, whether or not you are pregnant.

First line treatments include:

  1. Wear loose clothing, especially after eating a meal. Avoid wearing stocking/pantyhose that bind the stomach and put more pressure on the stomach.
  2. Avoid exercise after eating so the food can digest.
  3. Eat small, frequent meals and snacks so the stomach is never too full.
  4. Avoid foods that trigger your heartburn symptoms. Often high acid foods such as citrus and tomato cause heartburn. Others need to avoid spicy foods, chocolate, caffeine and carbonated beverages.
  5. Elevate the head of the bed at night.
  6. Alternate eating and drinking during the day.
  7. Take small bites of food and chew carefully.

If you have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or your heartburn symptoms are causing pain or difficulty swallowing and eating during pregnancy, your doctor may recommend taking prescription reflux medications. You and the doctor can weigh the benefits and risks of treating vs. not treating the disease. And try not to worry too much about the risks involved. Believe me, once the baby is born, you will be filled with worry and guilt about hundreds of other issues large and small. After all, what is motherhood without worry and guilt?!


Check with your
doctor first!