What If I have heartburn or GERD during pregnancy?
Heartburn is very common during pregnancy for a couple of reasons. The hormones of pregnancy slow the transit of stomach contents, the hormones also relax the muscles and render the "sphincter" at the top of the stomach less functional. Also, the enlarging uterus displaces the stomach upward further interfering with the normal function of this "esophageal sphincter". There are a number of strategies that are useful:
- Elevate the head of the bed 6-8 inches
- Avoid foods that trigger the problem ie fatty foods, chocolate, and peppermint. Also avoid foods that specifically irritate such as acidic drinks and spicy food.
- Don't smoke
- Don't lie down after eating
- Chew gum, to promote salivation
Some useful medications:
- OTC acid blockers such as pepcid(famotidine), and zantac(ranitidine)
- Prescription: nexium(esmaprazole), protonix(pantoprazole)
- Do not use Pepto Bismol during pregnancy
Patients should take medicines during pregnancy only as a last alternative. Many medicines are considered "safe" when taken during pregnancy, and are described as such here; however, these declarations are usually made via observational studies of populations. They are rarely made as the result of rigorous study. Thus, caution and restraint should be exercised in starting any medication, prescription or over the counter, during pregnancy.