Acid reflux is a common condition that can develop as an expectant mother nears her due date. In fact, roughly half of all women report symptoms of acid reflux during the third trimester of their pregnancy. But why are pregnant women at a higher risk for acid reflux, and what can be done to help prevent and treat symptoms of heartburn? We answer those questions and more in today’s blog about acid reflux and pregnancy.
Why Does Acid Reflux Happen During Pregnancy?
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid makes its way back up into your esophageal canal. This can happen for a number of different reasons regardless of whether or not you’re pregnant, but pregnancy can elevate your risk even more. Some ways that pregnancy can increase your risk for acid reflux include:
- Enlarging Uterus – As your uterus gets bigger to account for the growing baby, it can end up crowding your stomach. This crowding can push stomach acid upwards and back into your esophageal canal.
- Changing Hormone Levels – You’ll experience hormone changes during your pregnancy, and while these changes can help your body prepare for the baby, they can have some unintended side effects. Changing hormone levels can slow down the digestive process, and if food takes longer to be digested, there’s a greater chance that stomach acid produced to help break down these foods can make its way back into your esophageal canal.
- Loosening Of The Esophageal Sphincter – Progesterone is a hormone that is produced in higher quantities during your pregnancy, and the hormone can cause your esophageal sphincter to relax. If this sphincter isn’t securely closing off the connection between your esophagus and stomach, acid can make it’s way back up.
Preventing And Treating Pregnancy-Related Acid Reflux
So now that you know that you have a higher risk of acid reflux during your pregnancy, it’s time to take some simple steps to help prevent it from occurring or stop it in its tracks if it develops. Some simple prevention techniques start by monitoring and adjusting your eating habits. You’ll want to:
- Eat more smaller meals instead of fewer, larger meals
- Chew your food well
- Slow down when you eat to avoid excess air in your stomach
- Avoid fatty or acidic foods
- Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption
- Drink water between meals
- Don’t lie down shortly after eating
- Limit caffeine intake
All of these tips should help in your fight against acid reflux, but if you’re still dealing with symptoms, it may be time to connect with a specialist like Dr. Bhatti. He’ll take a closer look at your condition and can prescribe certain medications to help with acid reflux. In general, there are two types of medications that can help with acid reflux: Medications that reduce the amount of stomach acid that is produced, and medications that decrease the strength of stomach acid so it’s not as damaging to your esophageal canal.
Antacids can also be helpful in limiting acid reflux, but as you might imagine, you’ll want to run any new medication past your physician or obstetrician. Many medications aren’t designed to be taken during pregnancy, so consulting with a gastrointestinal specialist and your OBGYN is imperative before you start taking any medications during your pregnancy. We’d be more than happy to provide a recommendation and connect with your OBGYN to ensure you and your baby are safe while working to curb your acid reflux.
So if you are dealing with uncomfortable or painful acid reflux, regardless of whether or not you’re pregnant, connect with the team at Bhatti GI Consultants and let us find a solution that is right for your individual needs. For more information, give our clinic a call today at (651) 430-3800.