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Though a large amount of the American population suffers from acid reflux symptoms on a fairly regular basis, pregnant women are among the most susceptible. About half of all pregnant women suffer from reflux symptoms (such as heartburn) during their pregnancy. Finding treatment for acid reflux while pregnant can be difficult, as many medications are off-limits. While most symptoms eventually disappear after birth, there are steps you can take while pregnant to alleviate the pain.
Acid reflux while pregnant is common for two major reasons. The first is the increase in hormones, most notably progesterone. This hormone helps relax the muscles of the uterus, allowing for growth. However, progesterone can also relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which normally keeps stomach contents where they belong. When relaxed, the LES allows stomach acids to enter the esophagus, causing painful heartburn or other symptoms. Secondly, the rapid growth of the uterus in the second and third trimesters puts additional pressure on the digestive organs, making it easier for acids to reenter the esophagus.
While finding a prescription medication for reflux during pregnancy is difficult, you have many preventative options. First, eat smaller meals. This is especially important during pregnancy as the stomach capacity lessens. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure proper hydration and neutralize stomach acids. Many foods will also increase the risk of acid reflux while pregnant. These include foods which are fried, high in fat, heavily seasoned, spicy foods, or those high in acidic content (mustard, tomatoes, and citrus fruits).
You should also avoid eating within a few hours prior to bedtime, as reflux tends to worsen in the evenings. While sleeping, use several pillows to keep your upper body elevated. This lets gravity do the work of keeping acids down. Avoid wearing clothing that is too constricting, especially at the waist. Also, gain a sensible amount of weight during your pregnancy, and do so slowly. This will keep your weight from interfering with reflux. If you need to take something for your reflux, talk to your doctor. Many over-the-counter reflux remedies are not safe to use while pregnant.
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Category: Conditions and Diseases