Pregnancy and GERD
During pregnancy, heartburn and the symptoms of GERD are more likely to occur. These symptoms may occur at any time during the pregnancy and can become worse throughout the duration.
GERD is common during pregnancy because:
- Hormones cause the digestive system to slow down
- The uterus expands and pushes on the stomach, causing stomach acid to rise
- The muscles that push food down the esophagus also slow down
Possible Complications from GERD during Pregnancy
Complications from GERD and acid reflux such as esophagitis during pregnancy are uncommon. GERD will not cause any pregnancy complications and most of the symptoms of GERD improve after the baby is born.
However, acid reflux could cause severe discomfort and it may be more difficult to treat in someone who is pregnant as opposed to someone who is not. This is because certain medications or treatment options that would normally be used may not be safe for the developing fetus.
Treatment for GERD during Pregnancy
Treatment for GERD during pregnancy is very similar to that of someone who isn’t pregnant, and generally focuses on lifestyle and dietary changes such as:
- Eating several small meals instead of three large ones. That way your body isn’t working to digest as much food.
- After eating, wait a few hours before you lie down.
- Avoid spicy and acidic foods.
- Try to sleep so that your head and upper chest is elevated.
- Try non-prescription antacids but avoid ones containing aluminum or sodium bicarbonate because these can cause constipation and swelling.
- Try including ginger into your diet. Even if it’s just small sips of ginger ale or ginger candies, it may soothe your stomach.
- Take small sips of your beverages throughout the day. Don’t gulp down a drink with your meal.
- Know your triggers and then work to avoid them. Try keeping a food journal.
- Don’t eat right before bedtime.
If your symptoms don’t let up during your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about taking H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors (PPI). These are over-the-counter medications (like Zantac or Prevacid) that suppress stomach-acid production. H2 inhibitors are considered to be safe during pregnancy, whereas specific PPI brands should be avoided. During pregnancy, always discuss any medications with your doctor before you take them.
If you are pregnant and suffering from GERD, work with your doctor to determine which treatment option is best for you.