Could Taking Heartburn Drugs in Pregnancy Increase a Baby’s Asthma Risk?

Published on January 24, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

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Expectant mothers who rely on proton pump inhibitors and other heartburn medications to relieve GERD may be more likely to have a child who suffers from asthma, according to newly-published research. While the findings don’t prove a definitive link between the drugs and increased asthma risk, pregnant women may want to try other remedies before turning to drugs like Nexium, Prilosec or Zantac.

The research, which was published earlier this month in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, involved a meta-analysis of eight studies that included more than 1.6 million children. Follow-up ranged from five to 14 years. Children born to mothers who had been prescribed heartburn medications during their pregnancy were at least one-third more likely to have been seen by a doctor for asthma symptoms. Proton pump inhibitors, such as Nexium, Prilosec and PrevAcid, were associated with a 30% increased risk, while Zantac and other H2 blockers appeared to raise the likelihood of asthma in children by 46%.

“Gastric reflux is common in pregnancy,”  Dr. Aziz Sheikh, lead author and a professor at the University of Edinburgh, told The New York Times, “and in the majority of women, it can be managed with lifestyle or diet changes.”

Milder treatments like chewable antacid tablets are the preferred option when medication is required. Pregnant women who have been prescribed proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers should follow existing guidelines and consult with their healthcare provider if heartburn symptoms persist.

Proton Pump Inhibitor Side Effects

This is far from the first study to raise questions about the side effects potentially associated with proton pump inhibitors. According to, recent research has linked the drugs – especially long-term use – to bone fractures, low magnesium levels, B12 deficiency and dementia. A number of studies have also suggested that the extended use of proton pump inhibitors may increase risks for kidney failure, acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease and acute interstitial nephritis.

A growing number of lawsuits have been filed in U.S. courts on behalf of patients who allegedly developed kidney problems due to their use of Nexium and other drugs in this class. Later this week, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will hear Oral Arguments on a proposal to centralize all federal proton pump inhibitor lawsuits involving kidney complications in a single U.S. District Court for coordinated pretrial proceedings. While many plaintiffs favor consolidation, defendants have voiced their opposition.

The nationwide law firm of Bernstein Liebhard LLP is representing some of these plaintiffs. If you or a loved one were diagnosed with kidney failure or any other renal complications that may be associated with proton pump inhibitors, please call (888) 994-8177 to discuss your case with a member of our legal team.

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