Heartburn and Pregnancy
Having heartburn when you are pregnant is common. In fact more than half of all pregnant women will be affected by this health concern. The symptoms can vary from just a little uncomfortable to extremely painful. However, this health problem is typically not hazardous to either the mother or the baby. Severe heartburn usually affects women in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
What is Heartburn?
Heartburn is often referred to as acid indigestion. This condition manifests with a burning or irritation in the esophagus, throat or chest which is caused by stomach acid and other contents that flow back up or reflux from the stomach to the esophagus.
During pregnancy, heartburn may be stimulated by the changing hormone levels. This can cause the digestive tract muscles to relax and allowing the reflux. Or the change in hormones can make you sensitive to certain foods. Also the physical changes in the body, such as the baby growing and the uterus enlarging can push against the stomach and force the stomach contents upward.
If this is the first time you’ve had heartburn, it might alarm you. But heartburn is a normal occurrence and typically there is no cause for concern for you or the baby. Usually the symptoms of heartburn will start right after you eat or when you are laying down. It will normally begin in the area of the stomach, where you will feel a little full or maybe a little sick, as if you had indigestion.
Then you will become aware of a burning sensation that rises from the stomach into your chest. You may experience a bitter or sour acidic taste in your throat or mouth. You may also feel as if something is stuck in your throat or it’s hard to swallow. Sometimes your chest will be tight. Bending or leaning over can make it worse and the symptoms may include nausea and vomiting.
It is important to note that this pain should not be felt in your uterus or near the baby. If you experience an unrelenting pain in this area you should talk to your doctor immediately.
After you have eaten, the food goes into your stomach to be digested with stomach acids. Heartburn is just some of these acids being pushed back through the valve between the esophagus and the stomach. This valve is made of muscle and often the change of hormones due to your pregnancy can cause this valve to relax.
Later on in your pregnancy, the problem and cause of heartburn can simply be lack of room. Your stomach gets pushed out of the way, sometimes forcing stomach fluids into the throat, thereby causing heartburn. Once the baby is born and your hormones and stomach area return to normal, this type of heartburn should disappear.
Minimize Heartburn Caused by Pregnancy
There are some things you can do to minimize the chances of getting heartburn while you are pregnant. One of the best ways is to eat four to six small meals throughout the day instead of three larger meals. Take your time eating these meals, relax and chew your food and avoid spicy or acidic foods. Stress can cause heartburn when you aren’t pregnant so make sure to relax and eat slowly.
The foods to avoid include:
- Oranges and orange juice
- Grapefruit and grapefruit juice
- Tomatoes, tomato juice, and sauces made with tomatoes, including ketchup
- Chilies and other spices
- Fried Food
On the other hand, apples and apple juice may help deal with heartburn, as may bananas.
You should also avoid anything which is carbonated and fatty foods. Make sure you wait a few hours after eating before you lie down to sleep. Sleeping on your side with a wedge pillow or with the head of your bed elevated about six inches will also help.
Peppermint and spearmint tea can actually relax the esophageal sphincter muscle and can result to heartburn. When you eat, cut down on your fluids throughout the meal as the added liquid can increase your chances of getting heartburn.
It is also important to wear clothes that are loose. If the clothes put pressure on your stomach or chest it can reduce the amount of room even more and therefore cause you to have heartburn.
Before using any over-the-counter medications for heartburn, talk to your doctor first. Some brands have aspirin or aluminum in them and sometimes doctors don’t want you taking too much calcium as it may lead to kidney stones when you are pregnant. Often your doctor can recommend natural alternatives, follow your use of the over-the-counter treatments or prescribe a medicine to ease your discomfort.
For information on what heartburn medicines are typically considered safe during pregnancy, see here.
When you are pregnant, heartburn is a very normal occurrence and typically will not cause harm to you or the baby. There are many things you can do to minimize the symptoms and regularity of heartburn including eating smaller meals.