Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) means that the contents of the stomach flow backward and into the esophagus. Although this usually affects people who are much older or people struggling with obesity, this can affect pregnant women too. Let’s look at the causes, the symptoms, the treatment methods and how it is different from morning sickness.
Causes of gastroesophageal reflux disease during pregnancy
Gastroesophageal reflux disease refers to the inflammation of the esophagus when the acidic gastric juices in the stomach or the food that is being digested flows backward into the esophagus and irritates the lining of the esophagus.
Under normal circumstances, a ring of muscle in the lower part of the esophagus called the esophageal sphincter is able to prevent reflux into the esophagus by closing up. However, when your diet and lifestyle change or become irregular, this can put a strain on the esophageal sphincter and it is unable to close completely, allowing reflux to happen.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease during pregnancy happens when the baby in the uterus grows bigger and the stomach is compressed by the uterus. When the stomach is pushed upward by the uterus from below, the esophageal sphincter becomes loose and is unable to close completely.
The hormones secreted during pregnancy also causes digestion to take a longer time as the function of the stomach decreases. In order to speed digestion up, the stomach increases the production of the gastric acid, resulting in gastroesophageal reflux disease during pregnancy.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease during pregnancy: How is it different from morning sickness
The differences between gastroesophageal reflux disease during pregnancy and morning sickness lie in their symptoms. GERD is usually characterized by heartburn, vomiting, burping, feeling tightness in the chest area (or the feeling of having something stuck in your throat), or pain in your abdomen. Reflux can happen when you stoop down after meals or lie down on your back. In some cases, the symptoms can be very severe and might wake you up in the middle of the night.
In the early stages of pregnancy, you might have morning sickness, and be retching or belching all the time. As such, the symptoms of morning sickness are totally different from gastroesophageal reflux. If you feel that your digestive system isn’t working very smoothly even in the second trimester when morning sickness is supposed to become better, this might mean that you’re in fact experiencing gastroesophageal reflux.
Tips for dealing with gastroesophageal reflux disease during pregnancy
One of the characteristics of gastroesophageal reflux disease is that it doesn’t last long. If you’re careful to make changes to your dietary lifestyle so that it doesn’t get worse, you’ll probably be completely cured once your baby is out. The following are tips that can help you deal with GERD during pregnancy:
Types of food and eating method
To fight GERD, you must eat food that is relatively easy to digest. Avoid food with a high fat or sugar content, food with high acid levels like lemon, and drinks that contain stimulants like caffeine: coffee, green tea. Divide your meals into small portions and make sure you chew well before swallowing, as this will aid digestion. Also, refrain from eating 2 to 3 hours before you sleep.
Reflux usually happens after meals and you might feel heartburn or the urge to vomit then. Avoid lying down after meals. If you need to lean back against something and rest, sit on the sofa, the chair or lean against a cushion. Prop the upper half of your body with a cushion or pillow so that even you can prevent acid reflux even while you’re asleep.
Medicine for gastroesophageal reflux disease during pregnancy
Even if your condition improves after delivery, you might have a hard time during pregnancy because you feel like vomiting or feel unwell. GERD medicine suppresses the production of gastric acid, make gastric acids less acidic, and helps to improve the overall function of your digestive system. Ask your doctor for medicine to fight GERD, but if you are still hesitant about taking the medicine, try to deal with GERD by trying the aforementioned tips. If you’re thinking of purchasing OTC medicine, make sure you consult your practitioner before taking them.
Be open to diet and lifestyle changes
Dealing with diet and lifestyle changes during pregnancy can be a source of stress, but implementing changes can help if you’re suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease. The fact that your uterus will put a strain on your digestive system won’t change. What you can change is what can help improve the symptoms. Take things one step at a time and make changes slowly if you have to. Let go of what you’re used to and with adjustments, you’ll be able to deal with GERD and its symptoms!