Acid reflux during pregnancy
Acid reflux during pregnancy

Acid reflux during pregnancy: Symptoms and lifestyle changes to avoid them

Acid reflux is a condition wherein one experiences pain in the lower chest area, which is commonly referred to as heartburn. When the acids of the stomach travel back to the esophagus, this condition arises. During pregnancy, hormonal changes may cause the LES or lower esophageal sphincter to not function properly; this is the valve to carry food to the stomach. Also, towards the second and third trimester, the fetus grows and puts more pressure on the stomach, thereby causing food to re-enter the esophagus from the stomach.

Signs and symptoms

Some of the common signs and symptoms of acid reflux that one may experience during pregnancy are:

  • A burning sensation in the chest near the area behind the breastbone just after eating
  • Chest pain experienced because of bending over, lying down, and eating
  • Burning sensation in the throat or the aftertaste of a sour or salt-tasting fluid towards the back of the throat
  • Belching
  • Prolonged coughing
  • Hoarseness in the throat
  • Symptoms similar to asthma

It must be noted that the occasional heartburn is usual and the pain may cease in some time. However, if the pain is persistent, this might be a cause of worry. A possible reason may be gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, which is the next stage of acid reflux, or it may even be gastritis. Almost half of the women complain about heartburn during pregnancy. However, if it becomes more frequent, that is when a doctor should definitely be consulted for treatment.

Suggested lifestyle changes

There are several lifestyle changes that may be adopted in order to avoid heartburn or acid reflux, and make the pregnancy very safe for the mother as well as the baby. Here are some of the steps one can consider taking:

  • Eat smaller portions and try to compensate with more frequent meals
  • Drink as much water as possible between meals
  • Eat slowly and chew your food properly to put less pressure on the stomach to digest
  • Do not eat at least for a few hours before hitting the bed
  • Avoid foods that act as a trigger for the heartburn such as chocolate, spicy foods, citrus foods, as well as carbonated beverages
  • Do not lean immediately after meals and go for a walk if possible
  • Wear clothes that fit comfortably and are not very tight on the body
  • Try not to gain or lose a lot of weight suddenly
  • Elevate your upper body with pillows when you sleep
  • Try to sleep on the left side if possible as sleeping on the right side increases the chances of heartburn as the esophagus tends to be lower than the stomach
  • Eat yogurt or drink milk frequently as it will help overcome the symptoms of acid reflux

Apart from these lifestyle changes, there are several relaxation techniques such as yoga and guided imagery that may help getting respite from acid reflux.