Women's Healthcare Topics

What are the Signs of GERD during Pregnancy?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Acid Reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)

With acid reflux, the acid normally found in your stomach instead backs up into your esophagus. That’s the tube responsible for carrying food from your mouth into your stomach. Acid reflux is also sometimes called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or even GERD.

It’s fairly common for women to have acid reflux when they’re pregnant. As pregnancy progresses, the acid reflux commonly gets worse. Once the baby is born, though, it normally goes away. If you developed acid reflux during pregnancy, however, you’ll probably get it again if you become pregnant again.

Acid Reflux Symptoms

The most common symptoms of acid reflux during a pregnancy include:

  • Acid taste in your mouth, or burning feeling in the throat

  • Heartburn, or burning feeling in the chest

  • Vomiting or nausea

  • Chest or stomach pain

  • Sore throat or a raspy voice

  • Trouble with swallowing

  • Coughing

You probably won’t have to have any tests done to determine whether you have it. Your nurse or doctor should be able to figure it out based on an exam and asking you a few questions.

Improving my Symptoms

Learn about Acid Reflux and Pregnancy

There are some things you can do to improve your symptoms of acid reflux. They include:

  • Waiting 3 hours after eating to lie down

  • Eating 4-6 small meals each day rather than 3 large meals

  • Not wearing tight clothing

  • Not eating less than 3 hours before bedtime

  • Avoiding foods which make symptoms worse. These may include cola, coffee, citrus foods, tea, fatty foods and chocolate.

  • Elevate the top of your bed by 6-8 inches. Put a wedge under your pillow or blocks of wood under the top legs of your bed.

Pregnancy Health Section

Four major types of medicines will help reduce the symptoms of acid reflux

They include:

  • Surface agents

  • Proton pump inhibitors

  • Antacids

  • Histamine blockers

These medicines all either block or reduce the acid in your stomach, but they all work differently.

Normally, doctors will tell pregnant woman to try antacids first. Most of these are safe during pregnancy, but some of them are not. You don’t want to take any antacids containing either magnesium trisilicate or sodium bicarbonate. Antacids are available without needing a prescription.

If antacids don’t do the trick, talk to your nurse or doctor. They may want to recommend either a proton pump inhibitor, histamine blocker or surface agent. These all work better at reducing symptoms than antacids do. You can buy some proton pump inhibitors and most histamine blockers without needing a prescription.

Before taking any over-the-counter medicines for acid reflux, though, make sure you talk to your nurse or doctor. They’ll be able to let you know which ones are safe while you’re pregnant.

When to call my doctor

You’ll want to call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • A headache, fever, vomiting or nausea with heartburn

  • Severe chest pain or heartburn, including if they don’t improve with treatment

  • Losing weight without trying to

  • Having trouble swallowing, choking while eating, or feeling like food is “sticking” while going down your throat

  • Having bowel movements which resemble black tar

  • Vomiting either bright red blood or something that looks like coffee grounds


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