At some stage, most pregnant women have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms, especially heartburn. These symptoms can begin during a pregnancy and get worse. Learn what causes and what you should do about it during pregnancy. This article describes causes and treatment of GERD during pregnancy.
Heartburn is a burning feeling in the middle of the chest. It is the major symptom of acid reflux. A feeling of heaviness or fullness in the chest or stomach can accompany it. It is more probable for a person to experience heartburn:
- after eating or drinking
- when bending over
- when lying down
Heartburn can affect anyone, but during pregnancy, it is especially common. Some potential symptoms of GERD include:
During pregnancy, GERD symptoms are common. But it can rarely induce complications, such as oesophagus inflammation or damage.
Heartburn can occur during pregnancy, but during the second and third trimesters it is most common. A study from 2010 shows that heartburn or GERD affects 80 percent of pregnancies (1).
Most of the time, GERD symptoms improve after the baby is born. Here are some factors that can cause GERD during Pregnancy.
- hormonal changes
- increased pressure
A woman produces elevated levels of the hormone called progesterone during pregnancy. This hormone induces the slowing down of the digestive system. However, the muscles that force food down the oesophagus often work more slowly. It put pressure on the stomach as the uterus expands. Often, this can drive stomach acid into the oesophagus and cause heartburn.
Some home remedies often minimise or even prevent the symptoms of GERD. These include:
- raise the head of the bed by 6–8 inches
- sit upright for 3 hours after a meal
- wear loose, comfortable clothes
- eat frequent small meals
- Maintain a healthy weight
- chew sugarless gum after meals
- Eat slowly and chew each bite carefully
- avoiding spicy, greasy or acidic foods and drinks
- drink some honey in chamomile tea
However, the food you eat influences how much acid your stomach produces. Therefore, consuming the right food is important for managing of GERD during pregnancy. Some foods and beverages such as garlic, onions, lemon, coffee, orange juice, and tomato sauce or tomatoes typically induce GERD, and are often advised by physicians to avoid.
Before taking a specific heartburn drug during pregnancy, women should speak to their doctor. A doctor should give advice on which medicines are appropriate for the woman and the foetus that is growing. There are three main forms of heartburn medicine to take during pregnancy.
Oral Antacids neutralise stomach acid to minimise heartburn, sour stomach, acid indigestion, and stomach pain. Simethicone is a compound present in many antacids that helps the body get rid of gas.
- aluminum hydroxide
- calcium carbonate
- magnesium trisilicate
These types work better and faster if you swallow them in a liquid form. More convenient alternatives, such as tablets and gum, are also available.
Some of the most popular brand names include:
There are two kinds of medicines such as histamine antagonists (H2 antagonists or H2 blockers) and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These reduces the production of stomach acid.
Examples of H2 blockers:
- cimetidine (Tagamet HB)
- famotidine (Pepcid AC)
- H2-receptor antagonists
Examples of proton-pump inhibitors:
- esomeprazole (Nexium 24HR)
- lansoprazole (Prevacid 24HR)
- omeprazole (Prilosec OTC)
You should take these medications under medical supervision. Therefore, the doctor will see if these drugs are appropriate for the woman and the foetus that is growing.
In April 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed that all formulations of H2 blocker ranitidine (Zantac) be withdrawn from the U.S. market. Since it has been found to contain a cancer-causing agent (2, 3).
Related: Acid reflux treatment in children
The Bottom Line
You may have a more significant condition that needs treatment if you have heartburn that frequently wakes you up at night. This means it is important to manage your heartburn to protect you from complications such as oesophagus damage. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you’re worried about the effects of drugs. Although keeping your unborn child safe, a doctor will help you control your symptoms.