Gastroesophageal reflux is a frequent complaint of pregnant women. While 30 - 40 percent of the U.S. population reports at least one episode of acid reflux each month, approximately 50 percent of pregnant women say they suffer from reflux (Charan & Katz, 2011). To complicate matters more, during pregnancy, a woman may suffer different reflux symptoms than she did before she became pregnant such as chest pain, coughing, belching, and hiccups.
The causes for the increased rate of reflux during pregnancy are not completely known but may be caused by a variety of reasons. For example, hormonal changes may be to blame. The same changes in hormones that cause a woman’s body to relax in order to help with the stretching of the tendons and ligaments during pregnancy can also impact the function and structure of the barriers to reflux. Another reason that reflux may be bad during pregnancy is that during pregnancy, a woman’s diet is often changed and these changes may trigger reflux. Different sleeping positions that become necessary to keep a woman comfortable as her weight shifts may also contribute to increased reflux. An enlarged uterus causing extra abdominal pressure may also be to blame.
Reflux during pregnancy can be more than just uncomfortable. It can lead to sleep disruptions, lack of appetite, and can even predispose someone to having acid reflux after the pregnancy. The good news is that acid reflux treatment can happen safely during pregnancy (Law, 2010). Lifestyle changes can be helpful to treat reflux, but for many, anti-reflux medication may also be needed. If you are suffering from acid reflux during pregnancy, do not hesitate to talk to your obstetrician. He or she will most likely refer to you a gastroenterologist to put you on the path to feeling better.