When you first become pregnant, everyone you come into contact with will probably try to tell you about all the beautiful things your pregnancy will allow you to experience and how much joy there is in carrying a child. While some of those things are true, there will be some other aspects of pregnancy that won't be nearly as pleasant — and no one will tell you about those! One of the most uncomfortable and inconvenient things that plague women during pregnancy is heartburn and acid reflux.
You picture yourself engulfed in that pregnancy glow, allowed to eat anything and everything your heart desires under the guise of cravings. What you aren’t prepared for are the hours you’ll spend in bed each night regretting those cravings and tossing back antacids as you battle yet another round of heartburn.
Acid reflux during pregnancy is one of the least talked about issues women will face, and unfortunately one of the most common. Over half of pregnant women will experience acid reflux during pregnancy (most of them very frequently), even if they never experienced it pre-pregnancy. It’s fairly unpleasant, and it can manifest itself in a number of ways. You may experience your reflux as heartburn, a burning sensation in your throat or upper chest that keeps you up at night. It might also show up in other ways such as nausea, burping, or regurgitation.
For women who have never suffered from heartburn and acid reflux before, it can be even more frustrating. All the time we get the question, “why is this happening now when it never has before?” The answer: It’s just one of the joys of pregnancy. You know those same hormones responsible for changing your skin and causing that gorgeous pregnancy glow? Unfortunately, they’re also responsible for your reflux.
Women who are pregnant experience reflux because progesterone, one of the main hormones increased during pregnancy, slow down the digestive system. The hormone changes during pregnancy can also cause the muscles in your esophagus to relax more frequently, which results in acids seeping back up and causing heartburn. You’ll notice that you’re more likely to experience heartburn and acid reflux while lying down or after a large meal.
Although acid reflux during pregnancy is unpleasant, the good news is that it doesn’t affect your baby in any way, so there’s no need to worry about whether your reflux is harming your child. It can cause a number of issues for the mother, though. You may find yourself nauseous, unable to sleep because of the pain of heartburn, turned off by certain foods, or just generally uncomfortable because of your reflux.
If you’re noticing that the heartburn and acid reflux you’re experiencing during pregnancy is unmanageable, there are a few things you can do to keep it at bay.
Try to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day rather than three large ones. Remember that your digestive system is slowed down, so you don’t want to hit it with a ton of food at once.
Stay away from greasy or spicy foods, as these tend to exacerbate reflux.
Avoid drinking milk or trying to soothe yourself with peppermint tea. Although it might sound like a good idea, milk increases your stomach acid, and peppermint tea actually dilates your esophageal sphincter and makes it easier for stomach acid to shoot back up into your throat.
Consider using an over the counter antacid to help alleviate the symptoms of your reflux. Just make sure to avoid the ones with magnesium and talk to your doctor about which option might be best for you.
There’s no quick fix for acid reflux during pregnancy, but using some of these tips may help you keep your reflux symptoms at bay. Acid reflux during pregnancy is, unfortunately, incredibly common, so it’s likely that it’s something you’ll have to deal with at some point. Fortunately for most women, after your newborn graces the world and your hormones begin to normalize, many mothers will return to their reflux-free life a few months after delivering.
If you’re experiencing heartburn and acid reflux that wakes you up at night, isn’t helped by antacids or creates other symptoms like weight loss, coughing, etc., then you should talk to your doctor. It’s possible that you may have a more serious problem caused by something other than pregnancy.