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Common concerns during pregnancy – Morning sickness and reflux

Pregnancy | September 9, 2020 | Author: Naturopath

reflux, nausea, women's health

Common concerns during pregnancy – Morning sickness and reflux

Pregnancy is an exciting and joyful journey towards the welcoming of a new life. Unfortunately, for some mums-to-be, this journey may be accompanied by uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, reflux and constipation. Although these concerns are common in pregnancy there are some dietary and lifestyle adjustments, and complementary therapies which can offer relief.

Morning sickness

Apart from the missed period, tender and swollen breast, fatigue and frequent urination, feeling nauseous can be one of the signs indicating you might be pregnant. Whilst feeling a little sick might be fine, for some mums-to-be, morning sickness (which can be any time of day or night sickness) can be quite persistent, severe and debilitating. Morning sickness usually begins in weeks 6–8 of pregnancy and ends around week 12 although symptoms may continue until week 20 or for some, all through the pregnancy. The cause of nausea and vomiting during in pregnancy is not clear but is thought due to increasing oestrogen levels and changes in other hormones; an alternation in how carbohydrates are metabolised and interactions between chemical and the physical changes occurring in the body.

Symptom relief

Ginger is a medicinal herb which can be safely used for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. It has been used throughout the world therapeutically for centuries. Other advantages to taking ginger is its beneficial properties in alleviating joint pain and inflammation.

Vitamin B6 is often found combined with ginger in formulas sold for morning sickness and has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of morning sickness. It can be used as an alternative to ginger for those who find ginger too pungent. B6 usually has to be taken as a regular amount daily to achieve results.

Chamomile tea (Matricaria recutita) offers antispasmodic and sedating effects on the gastrointestinal tract making it helpful for nausea and reflux symptoms. Added benefits - can help promote sleep and reduce anxiety.

Acupressure can be a useful method for reducing nausea. The reason acupressure is effective for nausea is not known. It has been shown to have an inhibitory action on the gastric acids in the stomach. A point shown to be effective is the P6 point which is two thumb width above the crease of the internal wrist. Pressure on this point using a C-band area is an effective, safe, and inexpensive method for relief.

Aromatherapy. Lemon essential oil used as an aromatherapy has been shown to reduce nausea in morning sickness. Place some drops in a burner or oil infuser to help with nausea and will add a refreshing scent to the home or car.

Peppermint is another essential oil know for its anti-emetic properties although studies have not confirmed its effect during pregnancy. Cardamom offers an anti-spasmodic action.

Change in diet. Pregnancy is often associated with food cravings and food aversions and those experiencing more symptoms of morning sickness usually have the greatest cravings and aversions. Making some small changes to the usual eating patterns can help avoid symptoms. 

  • Eat small amounts of foods more often and avoid hunger
  • Avoid high sugar, fatty or spicy foods
  • Eat protein and complex carbohydrates
  • Drink fluids regularly - such as water, ginger or chamomile tea
  • Avoid triggers. This might include certain foods and food odours; fatty or spicy foods; strong smells - such as perfume, smoke and coffee; over-tiredness; stuffy rooms; excess heat and humidity; excess noise and excess exercise.

Hyperemesis gravidarum - when morning sickness becomes more than just an uncomfortable inconvenience. Hyperemesis gravidarum is the term used to describe more severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Women with hyperemesis often vomit every day and may lose more than 5 percent of their pre-pregnancy body weight. Dehydrated, vitamin and other nutrient deficiencies may occur. 

Reflux in Pregnancy

Reflux (heartburn) is a common occurrence during pregnancy. This uncomfortable sypmtom may be relieved with some dietary canges, lifestyle modification and supplements. 

Reflux in PregnancyReflux is considered a symptom of gastro-oesophagus reflux disorder (GORD) in which some contents of the stomach are regurgitated into the oesophagus resulting in a burning sensation felt behind the sternum and/or throat.

Other symptoms might include a bitter or sour taste in the mouth; burping; nausea and feelings of fullness or bloating.

Reflux during pregnancy is thought due to hormonal influence on anti-reflux barriers in the lower oesophagus and gastric function. Later in pregnancy it can also occur due to the pressure of the growing baby pressing on the stomach.

Symptoms are felt soon after eating or drinking and are common from around 27 weeks, although they can occur at any time during pregnancy.

Symptom relief

Symptoms most commonly occur when too much food is eaten at one time, or when certain foods are consumed.  

  • Avoid irritating - foods especially spicy or fatty foods
  • Have smaller meals more frequently
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet Click Here for further reading
  • Sit up straight whilst eating
  • Avoid lying down soon after eating and allow 3 hours after dinner before going to bed
  • Elevate the head of the bed
  • Prop up head and shoulders in bed instead of lying flat
  • Do not smoke and avoid alcohol. Not only are they dangerous for the growing baby, both smoking and alcohol are associated with reflux

Natural supplements to help with reflux

Slippery elm is a demulcent herb (it gets slippery when wet), which can coat the lining of the oesophagus and stomach, soothing symptoms and healing damaged tissue. Slippery elm can be used for other other distressing symptom of pregnancy such as constipation and haemorrhoids.

Marshmallow is another herb which turns slippery when wet and can soothe uncomfortable burning symptoms.

Probiotics play an important role in the functionality and health of the digestive system. The gut-brain axis is influenced by the composition of the gut microbiota and in particular the development of gastrointestinal functions. Not only can probiotics help with reflux they can help with constipation, haemorrhoids, immunity and the health of the newborn baby. 
Click Here for further reading

Reflux in PregnancyProbiotics play an important role in the health of the developing baby.

Breast milk, colic, immunity and allergies in babies are influenced by the mother’s gut microbiota. Taking a probiotics during pregnancy has been shown have a positive action towards these disorders. 

Inform your doctor

It is important to let your health-care provider know you are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms so the best and safest advice may be provided.

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References

Effects of Complementary Medicine on Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy: A Systematic Review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6177529/

Comparing the Effectiveness of Vitamin B6 and Ginger in Treatment of Pregnancy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3819920/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/indigestion-heartburn-pregnant/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/chamomile

Nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: Effects on food intake and diet quality https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5400073/

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/nausea-and-vomiting-of-pregnancy-beyond-the-basics#H7

https://www.health.gov.au/resources/pregnancy-care-guidelines/part-i-common-conditions-during-pregnancy/reflux-heartburn

https://avivaromm.com/pregnant-heartburn-5-tips-natural-relief/

Rationale of Probiotic Supplementation during Pregnancy and Neonatal Period https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6267579/

https://www.wincloveprobiotics.com/sites/default/files/downloads/hofmann_2015_english_translation.pdf

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Probiotics: A Systematic Review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019778/

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