Reflux in pregnancy: causes, symptoms and remedies

Reflux in pregnancy: causes, symptoms and remedies
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Reflux in pregnancy what it is and the most common symptoms

Stomach ache, with a typical pain sensation in the area behind the breastbone, regurgitation that leave a bad taste in the mouth, feeling of weight on the stomach, to which nausea and vomiting can also be added. Are the most common symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux, a condition that affects many pregnant women, especially as the pregnancy progresses. The reflux in pregnancy it is not a dangerous condition for the fetus, but it is undoubtedly not very pleasant for the mother, especially when its manifestations are more intense and prolonged. There are mothers who, unfortunately, associate the memory of pregnancy with that of continuous heartburn.


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In this article

  • Causes
  • Lifestyle and diet
  • Remedies and drugs
Read also: Acidity and heartburn in pregnancy: 6 EASY remedies to relieve symptoms

Causes of reflux in pregnancy

To explain the origin of gastroesophageal reflux in pregnancy, two factors must be called into question:

  1. the typical hormones of this period
  2. the considerable size of the belly.

Some hormones produced by the placenta, such as progesterone, work relaxing the smooth muscles, which is obviously good because it leads to lessening of uterine contractions, but it also has a negative side effect. In fact, relaxation also affects the musculature of the esophagus and the small valve located between the esophagus itself and the stomach (the cardia). As a rule, this valve prevents the stomach from "leaking" and that its acid content can rise up towards the esophagus, but already from the first months of pregnancy this structure tends to relax, becoming less effective.

Third trimester and reflux

Things get worse as the pregnancy progresses, because the increase in size of the uterus exerts intra-abdominal pressure. Result: the episodes of gastroesophageal reflux - and therefore of burning and acidity - can become more and more frequent and annoying.

How it works: lifestyle and diet

Various tips related to lifestyle and type of supply can reduce the frequency and intensity of reflux episodes. Here they are:

  • Break up meals, which should be light but frequent, so that the stomach is never too full. The ideal would be to organize yourself with at least five meals a day, the three main ones plus two large snacks.
  • Limit the amount of fluids introduced during meals.
  • Avoid unsafe foods and in particular: fried and spiced foods, too acidic foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits and fruit juices, products such as chocolate, mint, coffee, alcoholic drinks and carbonated and sugary drinks. It can be useful keep a food diary to identify the foods that most easily trigger heartburn.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • After dinner wait at least three hours before going to bed. The lying position, in fact, can promote reflux, especially after a large meal.
  • Sleep in a slightly inclined position, with the head and upper torso slightly raised.
  • For a night's rest prefer the position on the left side.
  • Get some physical activity.

How to intervene: remedies and drugs

If symptoms persist despite the proposed strategies, all is not lost. There are in fact several remedies on the market that can be used to tackle the problem. One example is formulations based on sodium alginate and antacids (such as sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate) which can be easily found in the pharmacy. These are products that work by creating a physical barrier that floats over the contents of the stomach, preventing it from moving up to the esophagus.

Since they are not absorbed systemically, these formulations are considered safe for the health of the fetus: however, it should be remembered that they can hinder the absorption of other medications or supplements (for example of folic acid or iron), for which it is necessary to adjust the timing of intake respecting the instructions of the doctor and / or pharmacist so that there is no interference.

Sources for this article

- C. Body and JA Christie, Gastrointestinal Diseases in Pregnancy: Nausea, Vomiting, Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Constipation, and Diarrhea, in "Gastroenterology Clinics of North America" (vol. 45, 2022);

- P.O. Katz, L.B. Gerson and M.F. Vela, Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, in "Am J Gastroenterol" (vol. 108, 2022);

- WHO recommendations on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience, 2022.

Questions and answers

What are the tips to avoid reflux in pregnancy?

Against reflux in pregnancy:

  • Avoid eating too large meals
  • Avoid fatty foods and coffee
  • Avoid going to bed immediately after meals
  • Avoid wearing clothing that is too tight
  • Avoid making movements that increase abdominal pressure

What is a natural remedy for reflux in pregnancy?

In pregnancy, to combat heartburn it is advisable to choose natural remedies, such as ginger, which helps to reduce acidity and nausea. For example, you can consume cookies, tea, infusions or herbal teas based on this substance.

Read also: Against heartburn

  • gastroesophageal reflux pregnancy
  • heartburn pregnancy
  • regurgitation in pregnancy
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