Eight Ways to combat the effects of GERD and Heartburn while Pregnant
Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD occurs in 50% of pregnant women. As with non-pregnant patients, reflux occurs when there is a decrease in lower esophageal sphincter (also called cardiac sphincter or LES) pressure or an increase in intra-abdominal pressure.
The major factors that promote gastroesophageal reflux in pregnant women are changes in hormones and the growing fetus. Changes in levels of estrogen and progesterone result in a decrease in the LES pressure thereby increasing acid reflux. Additionally, the growing fetus causes an increase in intra-abdominal pressure, resulting in an increase in the development of reflux.
What can be done to prevent or treat GERD in pregnancy? Lifestyle modifications can prevent increases in intra-abdominal pressure and decreases in LES pressure that promote reflux. Listed below are both ways to prevent and treat GERD in pregnancy.
1. Sleeping head elevated. Gravity plays an important role in controlling reflux. When a person is recumbent, stomach contents are more likely to reflux into the esophagus. Studies have documented that, as with patients who sleep flat on their backs, patients who sleep in a head elevated position have significantly fewer reflux episodes, and when they do, the episodes that do occur are shorter and produce generally milder symptoms. Gravity1st™ Elevated Sleep Systems mattress provides the proper elevation and allows restful sleep in any position when suffering from symptom of nighttime reflux.
2. Lying on one’s left side at night. Sleeping on the left side as opposed to the right side may reduce the frequency and duration of reflux episodes in patients prone to symptoms during the night. It is felt that there are more frequent episodes of decreases in lower esophageal sphincter pressure when patients lie on the left side as opposed to the right side. Sleeping on the Gravity1st™ Elevated Sleep Systems mattress allows you to sleep on your side comfortably.
3. Avoiding caffeine, chocolate and peppermints. These food groups all lead to a decrease in lower esophageal sphincter pressure.
4. Chewing gum. This increases saliva production and swallowing frequency, which can help clear away acid that has refluxed from the stomach into the esophagus. A clear reduction in acidic esophageal reflux has been documented in patients who chewed sugar-free gum for 30 minutes after a meal.
5. Eating frequent, small meals. Eating smaller meals empties the stomach more rapidly. Eating more frequently increases stomach contractions. If the stomach is contracting and empty this will decrease the incidence of reflux.
6. Antacids such as Mylanta and Maalox are effective and safer than other alternatives as they are not absorbed into the bloodstream.
7. H2 blockers Zantac, Pepcid and Tagamet are effective. While they are absorbed into the bloodstream, studies have not revealed any adverse effects on the developing fetus.
8. Proton pump inhibitors Nexium, Aciphex and Prevacid should be used only in severe cases that are not responsive to H2 blockers.
As always check with your doctor before starting any treatments including medication to see how it will affect the pregnancy. Watch our video of how Gravity1st™ Elevated Sleep Systems mattress helped Laurie Harper through her complicated pregnancy with twins.