Pregnancy Heartburn

Health
a woman with pregnancy heartburn holds her stomach

A large majority of women will go through the pain of having heartburn at one point or another throughout their pregnancy. For some, it may be occasional, while others may experience it on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, for some, acid indigestion can happen for the first time in their lives after they have become pregnant. Heartburn can be a very uncomfortable feeling, with burning sensations in the chest and the throat, and a sour taste in the mouth. It can come on suddenly and strong and cause mild to major discomfort.

Why Heartburn Occurs

Heartburn may occur in pregnant women for many different reasons. When you are pregnant, you will experience increased levels of hormones in the body, which then soften up the ligaments that usually keep the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, closed tight. When the LES relaxes, food, drinks and stomach acids can then reflux back up through the esophagus and throat, causing acid indigestion to occur.

Additionally, a growing baby can put pressure on the stomach and force the contents of the stomach through the LES and back up to the esophagus.

Eating and Heartburn

Although there are many pregnant women who experience heartburn with little relief, there are ways to help prevent it. Foods and drinks can be avoided that are known to cause indigestion. These can include chocolates, citrus fruits and citrus juices, spicy, fatty and fried food, food that has been heavily seasoned, tomatoes and vinegar. Caffeine can also be a trigger for heartburn, so pregnant women should avoid coffees, teas and soda because these can bring on an attack of heartburn. Alcohol is another source that can trigger heartburn.

To avoid heartburn while eating, do not eat large meals at once, according to WebMD.com. It is better for the digestive system to eat smaller meals throughout each day instead, and do not rush through each meal. Chew very slowly and take your time to eat. Do not eat within three hours of going to bed. It is also important to stay hydrated during your pregnancy; at least 8 to 10 glasses of water every day, plus other liquids. However, do not drink too much at once, because a lot of liquid can distend the stomach and put more pressure on the LES, causing heartburn.

Additional Tips to Avoid Indigestion

For those prone to heartburn, sleeping with their head and shoulders elevated up from the bed at least 6 to 8 inches can help. This will cause gravity to keep the stomach acids down in the stomach and not come up into the esophagus. Loose and comfortable clothes should be worn to avoid unnecessary tightness around the waist and the stomach. If bending, do so at the knees instead of at the waist to avoid putting pressure on the stomach.

Smoking during pregnancy is considered harmful to the unborn baby, but it can also cause indigestion. Try to quit or cut back greatly if you are a smoker and become pregnant. Additionally, too much weight gain can put pressure on the stomach, increasing the chances of experiencing heartburn. Stay within your doctor’s recommended weight guidelines during your pregnancy.

Some over-the-counter medicines are available and can help relieve heartburn when it does occur. Always check with your doctor before you take anything, but generally antacids such as Rolaids and Tums can help quickly bring relief.

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