Skip to content

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

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 esophagus.

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 is born.

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 eating habits.
    • 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 idea.
    • 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 doctor:

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 06, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) During Pregnancy Topics

    Today on WebMD

    hand circling date on calendar
    Track your most fertile days.
    woman looking at ultrasound
    Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
     
    Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
    The signs to watch out for.
    pregnant woman in hospital
    Are there ways to do it naturally?
     
    slideshow fetal development
    Slideshow
    pregnancy first trimester warning signs
    Article
     
    What Causes Bipolar
    Video
    Woman trying on dress in store
    Slideshow
     
    pregnant woman
    Article
    Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
    Video
     
    healthtool pregnancy calendar
    Tool
    eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
    Video