There are many beautiful things about pregnancy: that wonderful pregnancy glow, the increased voluptuousness of your curves, and of course the fact that you are nurturing a brand new life inside of you. Unfortunately, there are some not-so-beautiful things about pregnancy as well: constantly having to pee, morning sickness, pregnancy cost, and acid reflux, to name a few.
Acid reflux occurs when the valve that controls the movement of stomach contents between the esophagus and the stomach malfunctions. This valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), and normally it keeps stomach acid where it belongs and prevents that cheeseburger you just ate from coming back to haunt you. When the LES isn’t operating correctly, stomach acid and whatever food that acid is helping to digest can re-enter the esophagus, causing a variety of unpleasant GERD symptoms, including heartburn.
The first reason is that hormone changes during pregnancy slow down digestion and cause the muscles in your esophagus and that all-important LES valve to relax more than normal. This results in acids creeping back up from your stomach into your esophagus, creating that painful burning sensation associated with heartburn. The second reason acid reflux is so common during pregnancy is related to the fact that there’s only so much room in your body—as the baby grows and the uterus expands, pressure is put on the stomach which can force gastric juices up into your esophagus (yuck!).
Unfortunately, acid reflux and pregnancy go hand-in-hand. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent or minimize the symptoms of acid reflux. These include the following:
· Eat smaller meals and try not to lie down or recline soon after eating
· Make sure you allow at least two hours between your last meal and going to bed
· Avoid foods that trigger reflux such as chocolate, fatty foods, spicy foods, and acidic foods
· Avoid tight-fitting clothing—your stomach doesn’t need to be under any more pressure than it already is!
· Take over-the-counter antacids (Tums or Rolaids, for example), with your doctor’s approval
As always, discuss your symptoms with your doctor and follow any suggested treatment options! More than likely, all the pain and discomfort will be nothing but a distant memory when you’re finally holding that bundle of joy in your arms.