GERD During Pregnancy

It is quite common for pregnant women to develop gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Heartburn is the most common symptom which can hit you at any time during pregnancy and may become worse as your pregnancy progresses. It happens because certain hormones slow down your digestive system and weaken the muscles that push food down the esophagus. The expansion of uterus that pushes on the stomach is another reason. Symptoms of GERD also include chest pain, dry cough, difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food, and hoarseness.

Home Remedies for GERD During Pregnancy

You may experience a variety of symptoms of GERD, but heartburn is more common and troublesome. The good thing is that you can try some home remedies to ease the feeling of heartburn. Here are some suggestions:

1. Pay Attention to Your Diet

Pay attention to what you eat during pregnancy. Certain foods can trigger heartburn, so you should exclude them from your diet. Do not eat fatty, spicy, and fried foods. Limit your intake of processed snacks such as pretzels and chips. Do not eat mustard, chocolate, onions, tomatoes, and citrus fruits. Instead, include veggies, and whole-grain foods in your diet.

2. Perform Good Eating Habits

To cope with heartburn, you need to eat smaller meals more frequently and spread them throughout the day. Eating large meals increases the risk of acid reflux. Be sure to eat frequently and chew thoroughly for better digestion.

At the same time, do not eat too close to bedtime, as doing this slows down digestion and promotes heartburn. You should eat your meals at least three hours before going to bed, especially if you are eating poultry, fish, and other meats. 

3. Wear Right Clothes During Your Pregnancy

Be sure not to wear clothes too tight around your stomach. Tight clothes can push on your stomach and trigger heartburn or indigestion. Wear loose fitting clothing made of synthetic fabrics because they have some stretch to them. 

4. Keep Your Head Elevated While Sleeping

Consider sleeping with your upper body or head slightly elevated and this will prevent the stomach acid from moving up to the esophagus. You can use several pillows to elevate your head or place wooden/plastic wedges between box spring and the mattress to elevate your upper body. Be sure to use a firm pillow to support your low back.

5. Chew Gum After Meals

Chewing gum after meals may help prevent GERD during pregnancy because it promotes the production of saliva that neutralizes acid reflux in your esophagus. Avoid wintergreen or peppermint-flavored gum as they can aggravate your symptoms. Similarly, you should avoid gum sweetened with aspartame or you will end up feel bloated.

6. Increase Your Fluid Intake

Digesting solid foods is difficult during pregnancy, but liquid foods are less likely to put you in trouble. Enjoy smoothies, soups, milkshakes, yogurt, puddings, and protein shakes while trying to release GERD symptoms. 

7. Include Papaya in Your Diet

Eating papaya helps soothe the stomach mainly because it contains digestive enzymes. You can have fresh, dried, or canned papaya and papaya juice. You can even have it in tablet form. Papaya is a very safe food to consume in pregnancy and won't cause any complications. Just drink papaya juice regularly or have a few papaya extract tablets after meals to promote digestion and prevent heartburn. While papaya is safe, you may still want to talk to your doctor before including it in your diet.

8. Add Fennel Seeds in Your Diet

Including fennel seeds or fennel seed oil in your diet can help prevent and treat heartburn. They can reduce acid, lower inflammation, and soothe the digestive tract. Simply take a small amount of fennel seeds, crush them, then steep it in hot water and enjoy. While fennel seeds are good, you should eat them in moderation because excessive consumption may lead to contractions.

Medical Treatments for GERD During Pregnancy

While natural remedies help treat GERD, you may not get desired results in a short time. This is when you may consider going for medical treatments.

1. Antacid

Taking OTC antacids may help treat heartburn and other GERD symptoms. You can always take antacids containing magnesium or calcium; in fact, the additional calcium in antacids is actually beneficial for you during pregnancy. Just avoid antacids that contain sodium and aluminum because they may lead to accumulation of fluid in the tissues.

2. H2 Blockers

You may have to take an H2 blocker like Zantac or Tagamet in case an antacid does not work. These medications help limit the production of stomach acid. The good thing is that H2 inhibitors are safe to take during pregnancy. Just consult your doctor to be more careful.

3. Proton Pump Inhibitors

Proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and lansoprazole (Prevacid) can also help treat GERD during pregnancy, and they are available without prescription. They work by blocking an enzyme in the stomach wall to reduce the production of hydrochloric acid. You can take proton pump inhibitors for a short time, but be sure to talk to your doctor for long term use.

Note: Do not waste any time to talk to your doctor if you experience any side effects of medications.

When to See Your Doctor

While heartburn is common during pregnancy, you should seek medical assistance if your heartburn is severe and keeps you awake at night. Also, talk to you doctor when you have other symptoms as well, such as difficulty swallowing, weight loss, coughing, or black stools. These symptoms indicate you may have an underlying condition that requires further evaluation. 

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