Acid Reflux And Pregnancy Can Go Together Like Hand And Glove
More than half of all pregnant women experience acid reflux symptoms at least once during pregnancy. While pregnancy-related acid reflux usually is not a serious condition in these women, and is usually limited to the duration of the pregnancy, the condition still results in considerable discomfort and should be managed to provide relief and comfort.
While nausea and vomiting are most likely to occur during the first three months of pregnancy, acid reflux occurs much more frequently in the third trimester, as the uterus becomes fully expanded and the baby shifts to a head-down position. As the uterus expands, the stomach and other organs in the abdomen become compressed.
These changes cause pressure to increase in the stomach, squeezing the stomach’s space and forcing stomach acid upward and into the esophagus. Increased intra-abdominal pressure can also stress the valve, called the esophageal sphincter, located between the stomach and the esophagus, causing it to malfunction and allowing the acid to escape.
In some cases, this pressure can also force a portion of the stomach to protrude through the diaphragm, the strong muscle that extends across the bottom of the ribcage and aids in respiration. This condition, known as a hiatal hernia, can also cause acid reflux.
In addition, the hormones produced during pregnancy can also affect the smooth muscles of the digestive system, slowing digestion and allowing stomach acid to remain in the stomach for prolonged periods. When digestion is slowed, extra acid may be forced up through the esophageal sphincter.
Although more than half of pregnant women will experience acid reflux during their pregnancy, women who suffered from the condition before pregnancy are more likely to experience it during pregnancy.
If you’re bothered by acid reflux during pregnancy, there are some steps you can take to reduce your symptoms.
Generally, it’s best to avoid certain foods, such as those which are deep-fried or contain large amounts of fats, including full-fat dairy products. Caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea, and soft drinks, should be avoided, as should highly spiced foods, chocolate, certain citrus fruits, tomato products, raw onion and garlic. If you haven’t already, now is certainly the time to stop smoking and drinking alcohol, which can both exacerbate acid reflux.
Eating smaller, more frequent meals may also reduce the occurrence of acid reflux. The stomach will be able to more efficiently digest food and empty more rapidly, avoiding a buildup of stomach acid and helping reduce intra-abdominal pressure that can lead to the lower esophageal valve malfunctioning.
Ginger has been used historically to treat acid reflux and other problems of indigestion, promoting the production of saliva and alleviating nausea and gas. Chewing gum may also help reduce symptoms by increasing salivary production. Production of saliva increases the frequency of swallowing, and helps clear the esophagus of refluxed stomach acid.
When exercising or performing household or work-related activities, try to remain in an upright position and avoid bending over, which can cause stomach acid to flow into the esophagus. If acid reflux occurs during sleep, elevate the head of your bed to increase the angle of your esophagus and let gravity help keep acids in their place. Also, try to sleep on your left side, which naturally positions the stomach below the esophageal sphincter.
In most cases, antacids can be safely consumed, since these products do not cross the placenta, and so are not absorbed or consumed by the fetus. However, even over-the-counter antacids rely on different compounds to achieve their effects, and certain compounds can cause unwanted side effects, such as water retention and constipation. Be sure to ask your obstetrician before taking any over-the-counter antacid product.
Other medications, including the H-2 acid blockers and the proton pump inhibitors, do cross the placenta. Your obstetrician will be able to advise you on the safety of these products.
Acid reflux can usually be easily and successfully treated during pregnancy. However, if your symptoms persist, be sure to see your doctor so that he or she may rule out underlying conditions which may cause or mimic acid reflux.