By AP Health WriterTAMPA, Fla.
— Pregnant women are more likely to suffer heartburn, a condition that causes a burning sensation in the chest and abdomen, than their nonpregnant counterparts, a new study finds.
The findings are based on a nationwide study of more than 2,400 women who gave birth during pregnancy and who gave blood for the study.
Heartburn is a common symptom among pregnant women and can be mild or severe.
The new study found that nearly 40 percent of pregnant women reported having symptoms of heartburn.
The study, published in the journal American Journal of Epidemiology, was the first to look at the prevalence of heart burn in the population of pregnant people, the researchers said.
It is the first study to look specifically at the role of caffeine, the active ingredient in coffee, tea and other beverages, and found it is linked to more frequent heartburn symptoms in pregnant women.
The association was stronger for caffeine consumption during pregnancy than it was for any other factor, such as diet or exercise.
In fact, pregnant women who drank more than three cups of coffee per day during pregnancy had more frequent symptoms than did those who drank less.
The association between coffee and heartburn was stronger among women who were overweight or obese.
And among women in their 20s and 30s, the relationship between coffee consumption and heart burn was stronger than among older women.
For pregnant women, the findings could have implications for public health efforts aimed at reducing the risk of pregnancy-related conditions.
Pregnant people can develop many of the same conditions that are prevalent in older adults.
A recent study found caffeine consumption in pregnancy was associated with a significantly higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
But the study also showed a significant reduction in heartburn in women who consumed a lower-calorie diet.
Dr. Jennifer L. Sacks, the study’s lead author, said it is difficult to be certain whether the reduced heartburn is due to caffeine or other factors, because the study did not ask women to answer the question about coffee.
Sacks, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, said there are no studies that can directly compare the caffeine effect in pregnancy to that of regular consumption during a typical lifetime.
The data is also not clear whether coffee consumption can cause the same symptoms in pregnancy as in a typical lifestyle.
Sacking said pregnant women are at increased risk for the condition, particularly during pregnancy when caffeine is in the diet.
The research team noted that some studies suggest that caffeine consumption increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The researchers noted that while the association between heartburn and coffee consumption has been studied for a long time, it was not well understood, and that there are conflicting results.
For instance, they said the association is strongest among women with the highest levels of inflammation in the blood.
Another possible mechanism of caffeine’s effect on heartburn could be through its effects on the gut microbiome, which are believed to affect the gut barrier and regulate blood sugar levels.
Sack said it was too early to tell whether coffee’s effect was linked to caffeine.
But the research team is planning to conduct additional research to understand if coffee consumption in women is associated with other conditions.