HealthDay News—Use of asthma medications in early pregnancy is not associated with most birth defects, but positive associations are present for a few specific defects, including isolated esophageal and anorectal atresia and omphalocele, according to a study published online Jan. 16 in Pediatrics.

To investigate the impact of exposure to maternal asthma medications on the risk of birth defects, Shao Lin, PhD, of the New York State Department of Health in Troy, and colleagues used data from the National Birth Defects Prevention study for 2,853 infants with one or more selected birth defects (diaphragmatic hernia, esophageal atresia, small intestinal atresia, anorectal atresia, neural tube defects, omphalocele, or limb deficiencies) and 6,726 unaffected control infants. Exposure was defined as maternal periconceptional asthma medication use (bronchodilator or anti-inflammatory) from one month prior through the third month of pregnancy.

The researchers found no statistically significant associations between periconceptional asthma medication use and most defects studied. However, maternal asthma medication use was positively associated with specific birth defects: isolated esophageal atresia (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] for bronchodilator use, 2.39), isolated anorectal atresia (aOR for anti-inflammatory use, 2.12), and omphalocele (aOR for bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory use, 4.13).

“It is possible that observed associations may be chance findings or may be a result of maternal asthma severity and related hypoxia rather than medication use,” the authors write.

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