Acid Reflux during pregnancy is a pesky symptom that commonly shows up in the 2nd to 3rd trimester. It’s not always easy to know what is safe to take for acid reflux during pregnancy. Are OTC medicines okay? Are prescription medicines safe for the baby long-term? Are there natural remedies to consider that are both effective and safe? So many questions, but don’t worry, with the tips outlined in this article, you’ll be able to find some relief from that burning pain and learn a few ways you can minimize its occurrence, too!
What is Acid Reflux (GERD)?
So, you may be suffering from acid reflux during pregnancy, but there is some good news to share! There is solidarity in dealing with acid reflux during pregnancy. There are also lots of tips you can try today to find some comfort, but first, why does acid reflux happen during pregnancy? Let’s find out!
Why does acid reflux during pregnancy occur?
Pregnancy is a complex process that involves so many changes throughout a woman’s body. One of these changes includes large amounts of the hormones progesterone and relaxin being produced. Progesterone is responsible for helping the uterus grow during pregnancy and in late pregnancy, helps the breasts prepare for lactation. Relaxin, on the other hand, is responsible for helping promote the embryo’s implantation into the uterine wall in addition to inhibiting contractions in early pregnancy (to prevent preterm childbirth).
With these two hormones surging through a pregnant woman’s body, her esophageal sphincter (the little muscle responsible for staying closed off at the top of the stomach) becomes relaxed and loses its seal. This then leads to what we know as reflux — where acids and partially digested foods backflow up into the esophagus causing that uncomfortable burn.
What are the signs of acid reflux while pregnant?
Acid reflux during pregnancy typically has the same signs as non-pregnant individuals. Some of the common signs of acid reflux during pregnancy include:
- Burning feeling in chest or throat
- Feeling and appearing bloated
- Sleep discomfort
Some women also note a bitter or sour taste in their mouths. However, it’s important to remember each individual is likely to have a variety of symptoms that differ from one another. Once you notice one or two of the symptoms above, it’s impossible to mistake acid reflux during pregnancy for anything else.
What helps with acid reflux during pregnancy?
Now that we know why acid reflux during pregnancy happens, what in the world can be done to bring some relief? Well, first things first, moms should be sure to discuss with their primary care provider any questions or concerns they have about their acid reflux before consuming any medications. Once she gets the approval from her doctor, these remedies have been known to help moms relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of acid reflux during pregnancy:
- TUMS – one of the more common antacids available to keep in your purse or next to the bed to bring on immediate relief; this yummy over the counter remedy works by neutralizing the stomach acid.
- PEPCID (H2-receptor antagonist) – another over the counter remedy, except this one works by actually reducing the amount of stomach acid being produced.
- PREVACID & PRILOSEC (proton pump inhibitors) – these two medications can be purchased over the counter or by prescription, they also reduce the amount of stomach acid produced, but these can take up to one week before seeing any relief or not.
- Gentle Herbal Teas – Not all teas help to prevent acid reflux in pregnancy, but there are a few herbals you want to keep in your cabinet if you want a warm, soothing cup of tea to ease the symptoms.
Easy to stomach natural heartburn remedies:
- Ginger: a traditional herb that is used for reducing nausea as well as also have a soothing effect on the digestive tract
- Apple cider vinegar
- Pineapple and papaya
READ MORE: Chamomile Benefits: It is More Than Just Tea
Neutralize excess stomach acids with these foods:
- Noncitrus fruits (try bananas)
- Lean meats and seafood
- Egg whites
- Healthy fats (like coconut oil or pastured butter)
Can Acid Reflux During Pregnancy Be Prevented? Yes!
Another common question that circulates about acid reflux during pregnancy is whether or not it can be prevented. Unfortunately, there are no known reasons (aside from the assumed hormone changes) why some women end up with acid reflux during pregnancy while others don’t. We do know, however, that if mom has ever suffered heartburn or acid reflux prior to pregnancy, she’s likely to experience acid reflux during pregnancy. We also know that some common every day habits can trigger more severe acid reflux symptoms, here are 3 ways you can prevent them:
Avoid heavy, greasy, and spicy foods
Spicy foods, though delicious, are not a pregnant woman’s friend when it comes to combating acid reflux during pregnancy. In fact, spicy foods can cause lots of irritation to the esophagus and even slow down digestion. This means food will take longer to digest, ends up sitting in the stomach, and is more likely to back up into the esophagus.
Greasy/High-Fat foods (usually from fast-food places) on the other hand can cause the esophageal sphincter (the little muscle that’s supposed to keep stomach acid in the stomach) to become relaxed and lose its seal, allowing stomach acid to backflow. These foods can also slow digestion similar to spicy food.
Does this mean you should always avoid all spicy or greasy foods? Maybe not. With proper over-the-counter medication, moms may still be able to enjoy their favorite meals within reason. After all, you don’t want to give up all your favorite foods during your pregnancy!
Eat small frequent meals
Knowing that acid reflux is typically accompanied by slower digestion and stomach acid backflow, one thing that can help is to consume smaller meals throughout the day. This gives the body time to digest its food while limiting the amount of partially digested food just sitting in the stomach waiting to come back up. If eating 3 to 4 big meals is what you normally consume, try 5 to 6 smaller meals instead! Simply set a timer to remind yourself to have a snack so you actually eat throughout the whole day – pregnancy brain is a real thing!
We know, moms need their coffee to function most days, but it can actually be a culprit in triggering acid reflux during pregnancy. Caffeine can increase the acidity of the stomach acid in addition to relaxing the esophageal sphincter muscle. Both of which can trigger acid reflux during pregnancy or make current symptoms even worse.
If mom needs a little pick me up, she can try something like an energizing superfood-filled smoothie instead! Bonus tip, try using a pregnancy pillow or wedge pillow to elevate your head and upper body while sleeping. Not only can this help mom to minimize the acid reflux discomfort, but it also can help her get some much-needed rest too!
For some moms-to-be, acid reflux can be quite debilitating. For others, it could just be a little side effect that comes and goes. Either way, it most definitely isn’t considered one of the “fun” pregnancy side effects and we hope these tips can help you cope with or ditch your acid reflux during pregnancy.
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