In Vitro Fertilization May Increase Acid Reflux

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Acid reflux is a common complaint from women during pregnancy. The bigger the baby gets, the more pressure it puts on the stomach and LES, increasing reflux symptoms. For most women their reflux symptoms will resolve as soon as they give birth.

A new study examining acid reflux problems after birth now indicates that fertility treatments might play a role in these long-term issues. As a woman who did fertility treatments to conceive and now deals with acid reflux disease, it more than peaked my interest.

Researchers looked at 156 women whose first pregnancy was conceived using in vitro fertilization, or IVF. During the IVF process eggs are harvested from the woman and then combined with the male's sperm in the lab. The embryo is then transferred into the woman's uterus, usually after it has been primed by the use of fertility medications.

My fertility treatments resulted in becoming pregnant with our twin daughters, so I wondered if the increased prevalence of acid reflux had to do with the increase in pregnancies resulting in multiples. Having multiples can put a lot of added strain on the body and obviously puts even more pressure on the stomach and LES.

I could write an entire blog on the changes my body went through after carrying twins to full term

According to the researchers there actually was no statistical difference between women whose IVF resulted in twins or singletons. In the study 14.8 percent of women with twins and 12.7 percent of women with singletons ended up with increased acid reflux symptoms at least one year after IVF. In contrast, women who conceived naturally only had 4.5 percent prevalence of acid reflux symptoms one year later.

While it is not entirely clear why women who had fertility treatments increased acid reflux tendencies, there are a few theories. It is possible that some of the medications that are used for fertility problems, like high levels of progesterone, may play a role in these issues. Women who undergo fertility treatments may also have higher rates of prescribed bed rest or self-imposed bed rest, due to fear of miscarriage, that increases acid reflux symptoms due to longer periods of laying down.

This study is definitely interesting, but as a woman who dealt with infertility there is no way acid reflux would have kept me from doing whatever I needed to do in order to grow my family. That being said, untreated acid reflux can cause serious problems down the road. If you do have symptoms of acid reflux, talk with your physician and have the issue treated properly.

Acid reflux disease is very treatable and ignoring it can lead to esophagitis, strictures and even more serious conditions like Barrett's Esophagitis or esophageal cancer. When you've worked so hard to have children you definitely don't want to let something that is completely treatable limit your quality of life with your children.

Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.