What is Heartburn?
Heartburn is a common symptom in pregnant women. It is estimated that 2 to 5 in 10 moms-to-be experience heartburn. Heartburn means having a gastric reflux-escape of stomach acid into your esophagus (food pipe).
Most pregnant women start experiencing heartburn in the first three months of their pregnancy or during the second trimester. It is usually mild throughout the pregnancy and ends when you give birth.
However, sometimes, heartburn may be severe during pregnancy, and a woman may vomit blood or pass melena (dark-colored) stool.
Why Heartburn in Pregnancy?
The exact cause of heartburn during pregnancy is not well understood. It is believed that heartburn during pregnancy occurs due to the interplay between the pregnancy hormone, growing baby, and slow digestion of foods.
Pregnancy causes an imbalance of many hormones in your body. It elevates the levels of progesterone hormones which play a crucial role in pregnancy-induced heartburn.
Progesterone causes relaxation, including muscles involved in preventing the backflow of acid from the stomach (lower esophageal sphincter muscles). As a result, stomach acid and food reflux to your food pipe causing heartburn.
Progesterone also slows down the rate of digestion. As a result, food in your stomach stays for long, making it more likely to reflux to the esophagus.
The growth of your baby can also lead to heartburn. Your baby's growth makes the womb squeeze the stomach, which leads to spilling its content to the esophagus. It is the reason why you are more likely to experience heartburn throughout your pregnancy.
What Makes Heartburn Worse During Pregnancy?
Eating before going to bed
Eating spicy and fatty foods
What Helps with Acid Reflux While Pregnant?
Here are proven tips to help you cool the burn and make you feel comfortable during pregnancy.
- Avoid acidic, fatty, and spicy food.
You are already experiencing acid reflux, and don't need food that makes your stomach more acidic or slows down your digestion.
Avoiding foods such as citrus, chocolates, caffeine, onions, and fried fatty food while pregnant can help with heartburn
- Do not overeat.
Rather eat small frequent meals to allow your stomach to empty before the next meal. Overeating put much pressure on the lower esophageal muscle making it open. When it opens, the acid finds its way to the esophagus, causing heartburn. Avoiding large meals, therefore, lowers your chances of having an acid reflux
- Take advantage of gravity
Studies show that gravity help with heartburn by making food stay put. Therefore, sit up straight during meals. Also, prop up yourself during sleep with a pillow under your shoulder. Placing blocks underneath the legs of your bed can also help.
- Avoid Smoking
Smoking during pregnancy can harm you and your child. The chemical you consume while smoking relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter allowing your stomach to spill up acid and undigested foods leading to heartburn.
- Avoid drinking alcohol
Alcohol worsens the symptoms by triggering the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter and aggregating the stomach acid. Excess intake of alcohol makes your heartburn.
- Avoid tight clothes
Tight-fitting clothes such as Spanx increase pressure around your belly which can lead to heartburn. Instead, wear loose-fitting clothes. Stretchy clothes are even better in helping with heartburn during pregnancy.
- Sleep 3 hours after a meal
Sleeping slows down your digestion, making your stomach remain full for long. However, allowing your digestion 3 hours before going to bed can help prevent heartburn.
Taking antacids can help with heartburn during pregnancy. They neutralize the stomach acids, thus reducing heartburn. However, not all antacids are safe during pregnancy. You should therefore consult your physician on which one is safe. Sodium, aspirin, and magnesium trisilicate-containing antacids can harm your baby, and better to avoid them during pregnancy.
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