Pregnancy can be an exciting and uncertain time as your body goes through many changes in preparation for the delivery of your baby. Some differences—like your growing belly—are enjoyable to watch and other issues are less so. Stomach troubles are a great example. In particular are nausea, vomiting, and bothersome acid reflux (also known as GERD). Heartburn and GERD are estimated to plague up to 80% of pregnancies due to changes in hormones like estrogen and progesterone, which slow digestion and relax muscles that are designed to keep stomach acids where they belong.
Persistent heartburn and GERD that disrupt your daily life or ability to sleep at night should be discussed with your obstetrician. Remember to never take any home remedies or medications without your physician’s approval. Some expectant moms do their best to avoid any medications outside of their prenatal vitamins during those crucial 40 weeks, so how can you control GERD without a pill? Here are a few tips to consider:
- Eat less, but more often. Instead of having three meals a day, six small meals will be much easier to digest. Thanks to your growing belly, there’s less room for your stomach to expand so filling it up too high is a recipe for reflux back up into your esophagus.
- Try thinner more liquid foods. While this may seem counter-intuitive, the truth is thinner foods like smoothies, puddings, and protein drinks pass through the stomach more easily and are less likely to come back to visit. Thinner liquids, like soda and tea, however, should be consumed in moderation.
- Eat solid foods with care. Chew. Chew. Chew. When you are eating solid foods take time to make sure every bite is thoroughly processed before swallowing.
- Elevate for nighttime reflux. Can’t lie down at night? Try a wedge pillow designed to reduce GERD symptoms. These pillows are designed to elevate your body into the right position to keep the acids in your stomach when you lie down.
A Word on Medications
There are a lot of do’s and don’ts to remember when you’re pregnant. If you MUST take something, remember that even a chewable antacid is a medication that should be discussed with your physician. While calcium-based antacids are usually fine, here are a few types of over the counter remedies you should avoid while you’re pregnant:
- Anything with aspirin in it (like Alka-Seltzer). You may see it listed as salicylate or acetylsalicylic acid. If you are considering an over the counter medication, ask a pharmacist.
- Antacids with sodium bicarbonate or sodium citrate—the high sodium content leads to increased water retention and swelling.
- Remedies with aluminum as an ingredient. Aluminum is constipating for some women and could be toxic if taken in large amounts.
There are many things you can do to reduce the GERD symptoms that may come along with pregnancy. Do your best to make basic lifestyle changes and then remember that these symptoms will likely pass soon after your baby is born.