Stomach has a valve, just at the entrance. The valve is a ring of muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). As food passes through the valve, it closes. Acid produced by your stomach can move up into the esophagus, if the lower esophageal sphincter doesn't close completely. This can cause the hydrochloric acid along with the food to move towards the esophagus. A burning chest pain condition known as a heartburn, is the most common symptom of acid reflux. If the symptoms of acid reflux happen more than twice a week, then acid reflux disease occurs, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
During the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, many pregnant women undergo a symptom of heartburn that is caused by acid reflux. A heartburn, also known as acid indigestion, is characterized as a burning sensation or irritation of the esophagus caused by the reflux of acid and food from the stomach.
What causes acid reflux during pregnancy?
A Change in the hormone levels is mostly the cause of acid reflux during pregnancy. It can affect the muscles of the digestive tract and how different foods are tolerated. Lowering of the muscular valve between stomach and esophagus, called as esophageal sphincter, can also happen by pregnancy hormones. Stomach acids splash back into the esophagus, causing heart burn. The stomach acids can also come upwards by the pushing of the enlarged uterus by the crowding of abdomen. Gallstones can also cause acid reflux and heart burn during pregnancy.
What Are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux Disease?
Common symptoms of acid reflux include:
Heartburn: a burning pain sensation or discomfort that moves from your stomach to your abdomen or chest, and can reach your throat.
Regurgitation: a sour tasting acid that comes up into your mouth or throat causing irritation.
Other symptoms of acid reflux disease are:
- Dysphagia -- a narrowing of your esophagus, which creates the sensation of food being stuck in your throat
- Weight loss for no known reason
- Hiccups that don't let up
- Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or chronic sore throat
- Bloody stools or bloody vomiting
Medication to treat acid reflux during pregnancy?
Calcium or magnesium containing antacid are mostly safe enough to use during pregnancy. Antacids containing extra calcium just like Tums is good for the mother as well as the baby.
Aluminum containing antacid should be avoided. They are believed to cause constipation. It can be toxic at high doses. Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) should also to avoided because it can cause swelling.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
Proton pump inhibitors include:
- Histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs)
Histamine-2 receptor antagonists include:
Prevention and Treatment of Heartburn During Pregnancy
Acid reflux and heartburn during pregnancy, can be prevented by the following ways, without hurting your baby.
- Several small meals should be eaten by you each day instead of the large ones.
- Eat your meal slowly.
- Fried, spicy, or rich foods, should be avoided because they seem to cause relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter. This increases the risk of acid reflux and heartburn.
- Drink less water or other fluids while eating. Acid reflux and heartburn may be caused by drinking large amounts while eating
- Avoid lying down directly after eating.
- The head of your bed should be higher than the foot of your bed .
- Place pillows under your shoulder to prevent the back reflux of acid from the stomach to the esophagus.
- Over-the-counter medications such as Tums or Maalox, should be taken after a doctor’s consult. Only those OTC medications should be used that are safe to use during pregnancy. You may find that liquid heartburn relievers are more effective in treating heartburn, because they tend to cover the esophagus.
- Loose clothes should be worn. The pressure on your stomach and abdomen can be increased by tight fitting clothes.
- Constipation should be avoided.
- See your doctor, if the acid reflux or heart burn persists. Your doctor may prescribe medications that are safe enough to take during pregnancy.