Acid reflux, or GERD, is the term used to describe the regurgitation of stomach contents and acids from the stomach into the esophagus. Also known as heartburn, this condition is often triggered by pregnancy thanks to an increase in progesterone together with pressure placed on the abdomen by a growing uterus. While acid reflux for many women gets progressively worse during pregnancy, many are able to manage the symptoms and even get rid of them thanks to simple lifestyle modifications.
Make adjustments to your nighttime routine to help eliminate the acid reflux symptoms that often appear during this time. Efforts should include avoiding food three to four hours prior to going to bed, and propping the head and shoulders up on pillows while sleeping to help keep the acid in the stomach where it belongs. Elevate the head at least four to six inches for maximum effectiveness.
Modify eating habits to avoid eating large meals that can cause acid to build up. Doctors advise instead to eat four or five smaller meals throughout the day. In addition, do not eat and drink at the same time, but instead alternate to spread out what is being ingested. Similar to tips given to non-pregnant women who suffer from acid reflux, it is wise to minimize fatty or spicy foods from the diet, along with caffeinated drinks, as these can trigger heartburn symptoms. Last but not least, if a particular food appears to exacerbate acid reflux symptoms, remove it from the diet.
Change daytime resting positions. If heartburn is worse during the day, try instead to sit upright with your body leaning slightly forward as opposed to reclining while sitting. Also avoid leaning over when picking things up as this can place additional pressure on the abdomen and increase acid reflux symptoms. Instead try bending the knees and crouching.
Use over-the-counter antacids in liquid or tablet form to provide help reduce or eliminate acid reflux symptoms. Be sure to avoid antacids containing magnesium during the last trimester of pregnancy, as this ingredient can interfere with uterine contractions. Antacids with sodium bicarbonate should also be avoided during pregnancy as they can lead to a condition known as metabolic acidosis, which can increase the potential of fluid overload in both the fetus and mother.
Consult with a medical care professional when over-the-counter antacids and lifestyle modifications do not alleviate symptoms. It may be possible to take over-the-counter acid blockers. If these fail to work, your doctor may prescribe the medication sucralfate, which has been shown to be safe and effective for pregnant women.
Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes, as they can place pressure on the abdomen and exacerbate acid reflux symptoms. Instead wear clothes that fit loosely, particularly around the waist.
Unexpected aches, pains and discomfort are a common part of pregnancy and may be hard to distinguish from acid reflux symptoms--particularly in first time pregnancies. That being said, it is always wise to be safe than sorry. Check with your doctor or medical professional about any problems that are occurring with your pregnancy.