Severe heart burn, acidity or uncomfortable feeling in the stomach occurring more than twice a week is medically termed as Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). GERD is so common in pregnant women that according to studies almost 30 – 80% of pregnant women experience it. The first thing to do for any pregnant women suffering from acidity is to find a way to manage acidity without harming the baby.
Normally when we eat food it passes from our mouth to stomach through a food pipe called the oesophagus. There is a valve where the food pipe ends and the stomach opens, and it is called the Lower oesophagal sphincter (LES). The LES is a muscular band of tissue (like a rubber band) that opens to allow food to enter the stomach and closes as soon as food enters the stomach. As we already know our stomach produces many juices to digest the food and gastric acid is one of those juices.
When the LES sphincter relaxes without complete closure even after food has entered the stomach, the gastric juices tend to flow back towards the food pipe. These gastric juices (gastric acid) irritate the sensitive lining of the food pipe and as a result, acidity sets in.
What are the symptoms of acidity?
Pregnant women also experience the same symptoms but the severity may vary depending on the trimester and from person to person.
Common symptoms that you may experience when you have acidity include:
- Feeling of indigestion
- Heart burn
- Acid regurgitating back up the food pipe and into the mouth
- Bad taste in the mouth
Most often pregnant women experience an exacerbation of the symptoms soon after they had food and at bedtime. These symptoms as earlier mentioned may start at any time during pregnancy and may continue to increase.
What causes acidity during pregnancy?
It is important to note that pregnancy does not cause acidity; it only makes one more susceptible to acidity.
The following are two pregnancy-related contributing factors –
Being pregnant means your body undergoes many hormonal changes to allow the fetus growth and make your body support and maintain it. Some of these hormones make the muscles relax. During the first trimester, the muscles move in a much-relaxed manner like the food pipe pushes the food much slower and the muscles in your stomach also work in a similar fashion in order to facilitate absorption of nutrients and supply them to the growing fetus. But as the food stays in the stomach for a longer time you may feel heartburn.
In the third trimester, in order to accommodate the growing baby, the uterus pushes your stomach way up thus the stomach will be under constant pressure which also results in acidity.
C)Management of symptoms:
Do not worry as the acidity during pregnancy rarely causes any serious complications. You can either manage the symptoms by following lifestyle changes or with the help of prescribed medications.
Lifestyle Changes that can help you ease symptoms:
- Eat several small meals in a day
- Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly
- Avoid drinking water when you are eating
- Avoid eating just before bedtime
- Do not lie down after you had food, wait for at least 2 hours
- Have a leisurely walk after your meal
- Wear comfortable clothing
- Eat yoghurt or drink a glass of milk to control symptoms
- Raise the head of your bed by at least 6 inches with the help of pillows
- Eat large meals
- Lie down immediately after your meal
- Eat chocolates, spicy, oily food, acidic fruits like tomatoes and oranges
- Late-night snacking
- Wear tight clothing
Is it safe to use medications for acidity during pregnancy?
Many pregnant women suffer from acidity without consulting the doctor as they see it as commonly occurring and consider it as self-limiting. And also they have a strong belief that medications are unsafe for the unborn baby, which is true only to a certain extent. Many medicines are proven to be safe and effective to use under a doctor prescription.
Please do consult your doctor before self-medication especially when you are pregnant.
When to consult your doctor?
Most pregnant women with mild to moderate severity of acidity can manage it with lifestyle changes. But many have severe symptoms resulting in weight loss, disturbed sleep etc. When the symptoms are very severe and bothersome, compromising and severely affecting the quality of life, it is always better to consult the doctor and seek treatment instead of silently suffering or self-medicating.
Do not think too much about acidity. As already mentioned you are not alone, almost one-quarter of women suffer from acidity during pregnancy. After delivery, your body comes back to normal and your acidity will subside. Many doctors around the world had successfully treated their patients during pregnancy with safe and effective medicines.