Pregnancy Problems

Acid Reflux During Pregnancy

Why you're getting that nasty reflux during pregnancy — and how to deal. Plus, how to prevent more acid reflux (woo hoo!).

What is acid reflux during pregnancy?

It’s when stomach acid doesn’t stay put in your stomach and creeps up into your esophagus. Acid reflux is more common in pregnancy because progesterone, the main hormone of pregnancy, slows your digestive system. That, combined with the pressure of a growing baby, increases the possibility that stomach acid will make its way upward.

What are the signs of acid reflux during pregnancy?

The most common symptoms of acid reflux are a burning sensation in your throat or upper chest. (Heartburn, anyone?) You might also feel nauseous. Burping and regurgitation can also be signs of acid reflux.

Are there any tests for acid reflux during pregnancy?

Most often, acid reflux in pregnancy is diagnosed based on symptoms alone. But if you keep getting it after pregnancy, your doc may order additional testing, including an upper endoscopy, a test that’s used to look at the inside of the upper digestive tract.

How common is acid reflux during pregnancy?

Acid reflux is “very, very common” during pregnancy, says Michelle Collins, CNM, an assistant professor of nurse-midwifery at Vanderbilt University. More than half of all pregnant women will experience acid reflux.

How did I get acid reflux during pregnancy?

“Because your digestion is slowed, you’re fuller; you’ve got less room in your stomach, so acid runs up your esophagus,” Collins says. “You’ve also got a baby pressing on your stomach.”

How will my acid reflux affect my baby?

Acid reflux shouldn’t affect your baby in any way, shape or form. (And the old wives’ tale that says your baby will be born hairy if you have heartburn? Not true.)

What’s the best way to treat acid reflux during pregnancy?

Over-the-counter (OTC) antacids can be very helpful. Pregnant moms can also take some of the OTC pills that decrease stomach acid. But talk to your OB or midwife before beginning an OTC med like Tagamet to treat acid reflux. “We want to make sure that it won’t interact with anything else you might be taking,” Collins says.
Also, avoid peppermint tea, says Collins. While peppermint can be soothing to your stomach, it actually dilates the esophageal sphincter, the muscle that holds the esophagus shut, making it easier for stomach acid to back up into your throat.

Many moms-to-be have found relief by eating raw almonds, sucking on slippery elm lozenges or taking papaya enzyme tablets. You can also try propping up your upper body when you sleep; that position can decrease the amount of acid that backs up into your throat.

What can I do to prevent acid reflux during pregnancy?

Eat small, frequent meals. Avoid greasy, spicy foods, especially close to bedtime. And avoid milk. It might seem like milk’s a good idea, but it actually increases stomach acid, making things worse.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have acid reflux?

“My acid reflux gets horrible at night...so I usually take a Zantac 75 right before bed, and it helps a lot.”

“I was hoping I wouldn’t develop this fun pregnancy side effect, but no such luck. It’s especially bad if I eat late and then lie down too soon, and spicy and acidic foods make it worse.”

“If you want to go a home remedy path, apple cider vinegar works really well, or so does eating a red apple.”

Are there any other resources for acid reflux?

American Gastroenterological Association

Plus, more from The Bump:

Heartburn During Pregnancy

Nausea During Pregnancy

Gas During Pregnancy

By Jennifer L.W. Fink