Intro to Acid Reflux and Pregnancy

Welcome back to PregnancyPillows.org! Today we are going to be chatting about something that many, many women deal with during the nine months of pregnancy: acid reflux. Don’t worry too much, this is totally normal. According to the doctors at WebMD, more than half of all pregnant women suffer from acid reflux or f=heartburn at some point in their pregnancy. So you are not alone. But you don’t care about that. What you care about is how to make it go away in the most effective way possible, which is also safe for your baby. First, we need to understand what acid reflux is, what it isn’t, and what you can do to make it stop.

Acid Reflux and Pregnancy – When Does it Start?

Acid reflux can rear its ugly head at almost any time during pregnancy, but, as with most terrible things that accompany pregnancy, it is most common during the first and third trimester. In the first trimester, your hormones slow down your stomach’s ability to process food, which is good news for a developing baby, who reaps the benefits of this slower, but more efficient way of extracting nutrients from food, but it’s not great news for your esophagus. The longer the food sits in your stomach, the more acid collects, resulting in heartburn.

In the third trimester, your growing belly pushes your stomach up and out of the way, meaning there is less space for food and stomach acid. That stomach acid gets pushed up your esophagus, and voila! You have heartburn. Again.

Heartburn can even be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. According to HealthLine, unexpected heartburn, especially when accompanied by nausea and in women who have no history of acid reflux, could be an indication of an early pregnancy.

acid reflux during pregnancy

Acid Reflux in Early Pregnancy – What you need to know

There are a lot of myths about heartburn and acid reflux during pregnancy. One of the most common is that babies with lots of hair cause acid reflux. This simply isn’t true. Hair or absence of it is not an indicator of whether or not you will have acid reflux, simply because there is no way for a child in utero, tiny afro or not, can have any effect on the acid your stomach is producing. It’s two separate organ systems, so don’t worry if your family has a history of fuzzy-headed babies. It doesn’t make you any more likely to have heartburn during pregnancy.

There also aren’t very many risk factors for pregnancy acid reflux. Some women get it, some women don’t, and there isn’t much rhyme or reason for whether you will or not. So it may not be possible to prevent acid reflux during pregnancy. However, pregnancy heartburn is very treatable, and, as with most things during pregnancy, only temporary.

Acid Reflux and Pregnancy – Symptoms

So, what should you watch out for, and what are the warning signs and symptoms of acid reflux during pregnancy? There are three main ones to watch out for.

  1. Burning. Just as its name suggests, heartburn is often accompanied by a burning sensation in the stomach or chest. Some women also experience pain from heartburn in their backs. It can feel like a burning or stabbing sensation, and the pain may move up into your throat.
  2. Acid. As acid backs into your esophagus, you may get a sour taste in your mouth that is difficult to get rid of. You also may find the acid coming into your mouth when you burp, or may even vomit small amounts of acid from your stomach.
  3. Dyspepsia. This last symptom is the name for the burping and nausea that often accompanies acid reflux. You may find yourself nauseous after meals, and find that you burp quite a bit as your stomach responds to the build-up of acid. This can be a bit harder to spot, as nausea is a symptom of pregnancy anyway, and it can be hard to distinguish when nausea is just nausea and when it is heartburn.

Heartburn can be an all-day affair, but if you pay attention, you can often find your triggers, or what specific foods or times of day tend to bring on your heartburns. Some women find that it is worse at night when they are trying to sleep. Others find that it hits the most after a large meal or after eating certain foods. You may have to keep close track of your routine and eating habits for a week or so, to try and see what triggers your heartburn.

Some common heartburn trigger foods include:

–        Chocolate (sorry!)

–        Fruits and veggies with high acid content like tomatoes and oranges

–        Meats, especially beef and highly processes chicken (stay away from the nuggets!)

–        Ice cream and yogurt

Remember that not every food is a problem food for every person. Some are able to drink orange juice by the gallon, but can’t have even the tiniest square of chocolate. It’s different for everyone. Keep a close eye on what you eat to help determine your trigger foods.

You may also find that you are more likely to have symptoms when you are in certain positions. Lying down is especially problematic, because gravity is often helping to keep acid in the stomach. This means that sleep can be especially hard for a pregnant woman with acid reflux, because she may find it almost impossible to get the pain to subside long enough for her to rest

Acid Reflux and Pregnancy – GERD

GERD stands for gastroesophogeal reflux disease, and is essentially acid reflux times one hundred. It means that your heartburn will need to be controlled by mediations that can only be prescribed by your doctor. Signs of GERD include:

  • Acid reflux that wakes you up at night, as opposed to simply making falling asleep difficult
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing
  • Acid reflux that returns immediately after your antacid wear off

If you are experiencing these types of symptoms, see your health care provider, as GERD can cause damage to your esophagus if it goes untreated.

Acid Reflux and Pregnancy – Home Remedies

The good news is that there are many home remedies that can help you alleviate discomfort brought on by acid reflux.

  • Eat small meals more frequently.Try to avoid overeating. Instead, break your meals up to small ones throughout the day
  • Drink milk with meals. There is mixed evidence for this, but milk may help to neutralize the acid build-up in your stomach.
  • Go for a walk. It is a good idea to remain upright for about an hour after mealtimes. Going for a walk after you eat can help you stay upright and also help digest your food more efficiently.
  • Eat slowly. Help your body by chewing your food well and taking your time. Pacing yourself will help regulate the acid production in your stomach.
  • Sleep elevated. Lying down may make acid reflux worse, so try to sleep propped, using a pregnancy pillow or wedge to support you.

Pregnancy Pillows for Acid Reflux Relief

For Acid reflux, there are specialized pillows designed especially to help elevate your upper body as you sleep. These are a variation of belly wedges, and can be used in conjunction with other pillows.

Acid Reflux Wedge Pillow by Deluxe Comfort
Average Amazon Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Price: $100 – $150

This wedge is made of a supportive foam and comes in three heights; six, nine, and fourteen inches, depending on the severity of your acid reflux. It is very firm and holds its shape well. Some may find that foam has a distinctive smell, but that it goes away within a week or so as the pillow airs out.

Wedge Pillow for Acid Reflux by MedSlant
Average Amazon Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Price: $85 – $130

This pillow is also made of a dense foam, but is made to be both eco-friendly and hypoallergenic. It is guaranteed to last five to seven years, much longer than a standard pregnancy! It also comes doctor recommended by Dr. Mike Roizen. Users of this pillow do not complain of the odour usually found with foam products, and according to reviews on Amazon, it is the perfect height to keep acid where it belongs and give you a peaceful night’s sleep.

Candide Baby Group Pregnancy Wedge With Strip Belt by Candidate Baby Group
Average Amazon Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Price: $55

This wedge supports at a 25 degree angle, and has the distinction of being usable after your baby is born, as one side is designed to support an infant. It seems to have reviewers split, as some felt it was not safe for an infant, but mothers who used it for themselves found it durable and soft.

The Bottom Line

Acid reflux during pregnancy can be a pain, but it isn’t something you have to suffer with. Follow the above tips, and you should be sleeping and eating better in no time!