Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) During Pregnancy - Topic Overview
Most pregnant women have symptoms of
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), especially
heartburn, at some point during pregnancy. These
symptoms may begin at any time during a pregnancy and often may become worse as
the pregnancy progresses. Heartburn is common during pregnancy, because hormones
cause the digestive system to slow down. The muscles that push food down the
esophagus also move more slowly during pregnancy. Also, as the uterus
grows, it pushes on the stomach and sometimes forces stomach acid up into the
Although these symptoms are common during pregnancy,
they rarely cause complications, such as inflammation of the esophagus
(esophagitis). Most of the time, symptoms of heartburn improve after the baby
Treatment for pregnant women with GERD is similar to
treatment for other people who have GERD, focusing first on lifestyle changes
and nonprescription medicines. You can make changes to your lifestyle to help
relieve your symptoms of GERD. Here are some things to try:
- Change your
- It’s best to eat several small meals instead
of two or three large meals.
- After you eat, wait 2 to 3 hours
before you lie down. Late-night snacks aren't a good
- Chocolate and mint can make GERD worse. They relax the valve
between the esophagus and the stomach.
- Spicy foods, foods that have
a lot of acid (like tomatoes and oranges), and coffee can make GERD symptoms
worse in some people. If your symptoms are worse after you eat a certain food,
you may want to stop eating that food to see if your symptoms get better.
- Do not smoke or chew tobacco.
- If you
have GERD symptoms at night, raise the head of your bed
6 in. (15 cm) to
8 in. (20 cm) by putting the
frame on blocks or placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress.
(Adding extra pillows does not work.)
- Use nonprescription antacids such as Rolaids or Maalox for relief
of heartburn symptoms. Antacids that contain sodium bicarbonate should not be
taken by pregnant women, because these antacids can lead to fluid retention. Antacids that
contain calcium carbonate (such as Tums) are okay to take.
Along with making lifestyle changes and taking
nonprescription medicines, some doctors may recommend the prescription drug
sucralfate for treating GERD symptoms during pregnancy.
And although the following prescription and
nonprescription medicines are
generally safe during pregnancy, don't use them without first talking to your