Doctors Hope Heartburn Medication Could Prevent Deadly Pregnancy Condition

A trial has been launched to study whether taking Nexium while pregnant can prevent the occurrence of pre-eclampsia.

What you need to know
  • Pre-eclampsia affects one in 20 pregnancies, and can be fatal
  • A new Australian trial will explore whether taking a heartburn medication could be used to prevent it
  • Researchers from the Mercy Hospital for Women found Nexium could block the proteins associated with pre-eclampsia from being released

A heartburn medication could be used to prevent a common and deadly pregnancy condition.

Australian researchers launched a trial today to explore whether taking Nexium while pregnant can prevent the occurrence of pre-eclampsia.

The condition affects one in every 20 pregnancies.

It's caused when too much protein is released from the placenta, and currently the only cure is to deliver the baby.

Melbourne mum, Cat Bower was forced to deliver at 38 weeks -- but many women have no choice but to deliver much earlier.

Straight after her son Toby's birth, Cat was rushed to intensive care.

“I was in intensive care for 48 hours after the cesar,” she said.

“Within 14 hours I was still bleeding considerably so they took me in for further theatre”.

Despite the ordeal, Cat says she’s one of the lucky ones.

Professor Shaun Brennecke, Director of Pregnancy Research at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital, says the disease can affect a woman’s brain, causing convulsions.

“It can also affect her liver, her kidneys and her placenta, which is how it can affect the baby,” he added.

Photo: Getty Images

The disease can be fatal.

Professor Brennecke is the co-investigator of a trial into the use of Nexium to prevent pre-eclampsia.

Researchers from the Mercy Hospital for Women found Nexium could block the proteins associated with pre-eclampsia from being released from the placenta.

Professor Brennecke now hopes the laboratory results will transfer to a real cure for pregnant women.

“We’ve waited a long time for an opportunity to study a drug that might be able to either prevent, minimise or hopefully cure this condition,” he said.

Five hundred pregnant women deemed at high risk of developing pre-eclampsia will be invited to take part in the trial.

Eleven hospitals across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia will be involved.

Professor Brennecke says it’ll be up to three years before we know whether the trial was successful.