Eating close to bedtime can trigger acid reflux while you are sleeping; it’s also important to keep in mind that food doesn’t digest as well or move as quickly during pregnancy. Most experts believe that pregnancy hormones (progesterone) play a role since hormones cause relaxation of the esophageal sphincter, the tight circular band of muscle at the top of the stomach which keeps the food inside. This relaxation would then make stomach acid flow back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in your heart and chest, often referred to as heartburn or acid reflux.
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What causes acid reflux during pregnancy?
1. Changing hormones
Your hormone levels change during pregnancy, affecting how you tolerate and digest foods.
The hormones (progesterone) often slow down your digestive system.
As a result, food moves slower and stays longer in your stomach, causing bloating and acid reflux.
2. Relaxed esophageal sphincter
Progesterone, known as the pregnancy hormone, can make the lower esophageal sphincter relax.
When it settles, stomach acid can move up into the esophagus, causing burning or pain in your chest or heartburn.
3. Growing uterus
As your baby grows, your uterus gets bigger. It can crowd your stomach and push stomach acids upward into your esophagus.
That’s why heartburn is more common during the third trimester, the last few months of pregnancy.
The baby and uterus are biggest then, crowding your other organs.
Why is acid reflux a lot worst at bedtime?
- According to gastroenterologist Scott Gabbard, MD, “When you’re lying down, you lose gravity’s help in allowing your esophagus to clear food, bile, and acids, that can allow for heartburn to happen.”
- During pregnancy, your hormones will slow down your digestive system causing the food to stay longer than usual in your stomach, making it seem like you are going to bed still half full from dinner. Then you’ll lie down, making it easier for the stomach acid to move up into the esophagus and cause acid reflux during your sleep.
- When you’re sleeping, the stomach empties more slowly, which can lead to bloating, which can cause the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) valve to relax and let stomach acid back into the esophagus. Also, the activity of swallowing decreases and, in stages of deep sleep, completely shuts down.
9 tips to prevent acid reflux during pregnancy
Here are some helpful tips to help prevent acid reflux during your pregnancy. Incorporate one or more tips into your life immediately to start feeling relief from acid reflux.
1. Eat small frequent meals
During pregnancy, it takes longer for you to digest the food you eat.
Make things easier on your gut by eating several small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones.
2. Eat slowly
Eating your food too fast defeats the purpose of spreading them out.
Eating quickly increases the risk of acid reflux, so slow down and enjoy your food.
3. Avoid fried, spicy, or fatty foods
Stay away from all rich, fatty foods.
Not only will this help prevent heartburn, but making more nutritious choices helps ensure that your baby is getting the essential vitamins and minerals that they need to stay healthy in utero.
There are also some foods (like raw seafood) you want to avoid entirely during your pregnancy.
4. Minimize citrus fruits and juices at night
Breaking down these acidic foods in your stomach at night is a sure shot of acid reflux when it’s finally time for bed.
Your body and your baby still need them. Try eating them mid-morning until in the afternoon to give them some time to digest.
5. Limit coffee
Coffee produces acid in our stomach too, and it is also not a very healthy option for a drink during your pregnancy.
If you really have to, try to drink at most 1 cup per day.
6. Avoid midnight snacks
Try not to eat anything within three hours of hitting the sack.
Again, you have to give your pregnant body some extra time to break down and digest what you ate for last before sleeping.
7. Don’t lie down right after eating
It might be tempting, especially in your 3rd trimester.
You don’t get much sleep anymore because of your big belly and how it pushes all your organs to the side, including your lungs.
8. Elevate your upper body when you lie down
It’s hard enough to sleep well while pregnant without throwing acid reflux on top of everything.
To prevent nighttime heartburn, try propping yourself up when you sleep to counteract the acid.
9. Sleep on your left side
Sleeping on your right side will position your stomach higher than your esophagus, leading to acid reflux.
Some natural methods to get rid of acid reflux while pregnant
Milk and honey
According to the American Pregnancy Association, a tablespoon of honey mixed in a glass of warm milk may be just what you need to neutralize heartburn-causing acid.
Eating a handful of almonds may provide heartburn relief since these nuts have a lower acidity level than others.
For some women, the digestive enzymes in papaya have helped ease symptoms.
In addition, eating these fruits after your meals can aid digestion and reduce your chances of heartburn.
Among ginger’s many benefits, it can reduce inflammation and prevent stomach acid from traveling up the esophagus.
This makes it a helpful food for fighting off heartburn, too.
Its probiotics and soft texture make yogurt an excellent option for calming heartburn.
While it’s not the most natural method, it can be an effective method for taming the burn. There are many brands of sugar-free gum, so you can find the right one for you.
One study found that chewing sugar-free gum for 30 minutes after a meal can reduce acid reflux.
When to talk to your doctor
If you’ve tried a few tips above and have had no relief, consult your doctor.
They’ll be able to recommend pregnancy-safe medicine to ease your acid reflux.
Can acid reflux hurt pregnancy?
There are no reported cases where the baby has been affected by acid reflux.
If you feel like you are experiencing a severe amount of acid reflux, please do not hesitate to reach out to your OB-GYNE for them to help you ease the pain.
Does water help acid reflux?
Drinking water during the later stages of digestion can reduce acidity and GERD symptoms.
Often, there are pockets of high acidity, between a pH of 1 and 2, just below the esophagus.
By drinking tap or filtered water a little while after a meal, you can dilute the acid there, resulting in less heartburn.
With all of the changes that will go through a woman’s body during pregnancy, having to deal with another dilemma could be too much, especially when it would affect the amount of sleep that you will be getting.
Not to mention how little sleep pregnant women get during the last few weeks of their pregnancy.
The safety of your baby is always the primary concern.
Talk to your local healthcare provider if the acid reflux during bedtime is getting worst or if it’s affecting your bodily functions regularly.