What is reflux and why does it happen in pregnancy?
Acid reflux occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach make their way back up the oesophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach) and cause irritation. This is most commonly felt as a burning sensation in the upper tummy or chest, but can also cause coughing or a husky voice, chest pain, or worsen nausea and vomiting.
It occurs more commonly in pregnancy due to a number of effects of the hormones produced by the placenta including:
- “Loosening” of the muscle that keeps the top of the stomach closed
- Slower transit of food through the stomach
- Less room in the stomach as the womb and baby get bigger throughout the pregnancy
Is there anything I can do to relieve the symptoms?
There are a number of simple things that you can do to help with the symptoms of reflux in pregnancy:
- Eat smaller amounts more regularly (allows time for the stomach to empty)
- Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms
- Caffeine or fizzy drinks
- Fatty or spicy foods
- Chocolate (sorry!)
- Don’t lie down within an hour or two of eating, and make sure your last meal is a couple of hours before bedtime
- Elevate the head of the bed (you can make use of phone books by putting them under the feet of the bedhead) or put a wedge under the head of the mattress
- Avoid tight fitting clothing
- Avoid excessive weight gain
When should I see my Doctor?
If the above measures don’t help, you should see your doctor. Sometimes using antacids may help, or more rarely the use of medications (which are safe in pregnancy) to reduce acid production in the stomach may be required.
Also, if you notice any other symptoms such as inability to swallow, vomiting up blood or dark flecks like coffee grounds, unrelieved chest pain, darker bowel motions, or unintentional weight loss you should seek attention promptly.
The above information doesn’t take the place of a medical consultation so please seek further advice if your symptoms continue to concern you.