New Pillow System Could Ease Pregnancy-Related Heartburn

04. 11. 2016

For many women, the third trimester of pregnancy is the most exciting and the most challenging. You’re counting down the days until you can meet your new bundle of joy, but in the meantime, you’ve got to deal with swollen ankles, aches and pains, shortness of breath, and severe nighttime heartburn. Nearly half of all women experience acid reflux during pregnancy. Fluctuating hormones can slow down digestion, and your growing baby places pressure on the stomach which can encourage digestive acids to creep back into the esophagus. The good news is that these symptoms will subside with the arrival of your little one. But for now, you may be able to find relief with a new pillow system.

The Cleveland Clinic is currently testing a two-part pillow system to alleviate nighttime heartburn in pregnant women, and so far, the results have been encouraging. This system combines an incline wedge with a candy cane shaped pillow to elevate the upper body and keep you sleeping on your left side. Previous research has shown that sleeping on the left side keeps food and digestive acids away from the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to reduce the occurrence of reflux.

Testing with this pillow system began in 2014 when the Cleveland Clinic conducted a study involving GERD patients. Participants in this study reported significant improvement of reflux and heartburn when the pillow system was utilized. Testing continued in 2015, this time involving 17 women in their second trimester of pregnancy who experienced moderate-to-severe nighttime reflux. After using the pillow system for two weeks, 65 percent of participants reported an improvement in nighttime GERD and 49 percent reported an improvement in quality of sleep.

Because women are not permitted to take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) during pregnancy, this pillow system is a promising option to safely and effectively alleviate GERD symptoms in pregnant women. “Any time we can find an alternative to medications, that’s a good thing,” says gastroenterologist Scott Gabbard, MD, who led the research. “Though proton pump inhibitors don’t have a lot of side effects, they do have some potentially long-term effects.”

Gabbard and his team will continue to track study participants throughout the remainder of their pregnancy to evaluate the effects of the pillow system. Insurers currently cover the cost of the pillow system on a case-by-case basis, but results from this study could influence insurers to expand their coverage (Source: Cleveland Clinic).


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