Heartburn Remedies Safe or Not? Study Yields Mixed Results
A large-scale study from researchers in Denmark has found that pregnant women who take acid-suppressing medications known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) for heartburn relief may not be putting their babies at increased risk for birth defects, but women who have yet to conceive should still be on guard. The study, published November 25, 2010, in the New England Journal of Medicine, used a national prenatal health database to locate 5,082 women who had used proton-pump inhibitors at some time during the period of four weeks prior to pregnancy through the first trimester.
Researchers noted no significant differences in birth defect risk when pregnant women who took PPIs were compared with moms-to-be who used other relief remedies for heartburn. However, researchers found that PPIs were linked to an increased risk for birth defects if used during the four weeks prior to pregnancy. As an LA Times story points out, exposure to PPIs—with the notable exception of omeprazole (Prilosec)—increased the risk of major birth defects by 39 percent.
In an editorial accompanying the study, Boston University School of Medicine researchers called the results “reassuring” but “far from definitive.” While it now appears that proton-pump inhibitors are likely safe during pregnancy, “Until we have a better understanding of what might explain this latter finding [an increased risk prior to conception], it may be prudent to consider omeprazole (Prilosec) to be the PPI of choice when PPI treatment is clearly needed for women of childbearing age and particularly for those who are planning to become pregnant,” the authors of the editorial write (as quoted in the LA Times).
Bottom line? If you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, ask your doctor which heartburn relief remedies are the safest match for your health needs.
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