Proton Pump Inhibitor medications, or PPI, are very common and better known by brand names like Nexium, Dexilant, Prilosec, Zegerid, Protonix and Prevacid and others. They are designed to help relieve heart burn and acid reflux—issues that are common to pregnant women. But does taking these PPI or acid reflux medications put a developing baby at risk?
The respected New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published two articles examining the issue. One report suggested that there were no increased risks of “major” birth defects with PPI medications. However, in that same issue of NEJM, Dr. Allen Mitchell editorialized, claiming more research is needed.
The initial study may provide some reassurance, but “the authors acknowledge, these data provide only a broad—and incomplete—overview.” Dr. Mitchell points out that drugs that cause birth defects tend to increase the risks of specific birth defects, not birth defects overall. “The study had insufficient power to consider the risks of specific birth defects in relation to specific PPIs,” he says.
Consider, omeprazole, the generic name for Prilosec, Prilosec OTC, and Zegerid has an FDA category C, which means it’s unknown whether will harm an unborn baby.
For consumers, the information is incomplete and confusing. Some reports do suggest that there is a danger of cardiac birth defects when women use PPIs during the first trimester, and attorneys are currently reviewing cases concerning this issue. Women who took PPI medications and have children born with heart defects are seeking legal advice.