Why Taking Heartburn Pills During Pregnancy Might be Risky for Your Baby

A recent study found an unexpected danger associated with taking heartburn medication during pregnancy. But should you really be concerned?

Heartburn medication and asthma 279photo Studio/Shutterstock
Heartburn comes with the territory of being pregnant. And fortunately, it's one of the health conditions that has had a pregnancy-safe medication meant to address the issue. But does new research indicate that moms-to-be are putting their fetuses at risk if they look to heartburn pills to cure the ailment? 

According to new research from the University of Edinburgh, tthere's a possible link between taking heartburn pills during pregnancy and increased asthma risk to the baby. The study found that children of women who were treated for acid reflux were more likely to receive treatment for childhood asthma later in life.

But before you panic over this news, be sure to consider this: While the study's authors found a potential link, there's not enough here to shape a conclusive finding. The association could be due to an unrelated factor, and they'll need to do more research before they can really understand how these two factors work together.

Researchers looked at eight previous studies in their research—but while they did notice a correlation between use of heartburn drugs and asthma in children, this hasn't led the experts involved with the study to suggest an alternate plan for treatment of heartburn. So if you're taking heartburn medication—and if your doctor believes this is the right course of treatment for you—you don't necessarily need to stop. H2-receptor antagonists—which are often used to treat heartburn in pregnant patients—have been deemed safe to use, as they don't appear to affect the fetus.

"It is important to stress that this research is at a very early stage and expectant mums should continue to take any medication they need under the guidance of their doctor or nurse," researcher Samantha Walker said, according to a release for the study. "We don't yet know if the heartburn medication itself is contributing to the development of asthma in children, or if there is common factor we haven't discovered yet that causes both heartburn in pregnant women and asthma in their children. The study points us towards something that needs further investigation which is why we need to see more research carried out into the causes of asthma, a condition that affects 5.4 million people in the UK alone."

The verdict (for now): There's no need to suffer with heartburn—and check with your doctor if you have any questions.