Heartburn – is a feeling of discomfort or a burning sensation behind the breastbone, spreading upward from the upper abdominal (epigastric) region, sometimes reflecting in the neck. Heartburn during pregnancy is a common issue many pregnant women have to deal with.
Heartburn is often caused by the gastric juice that returns back to the gullet from the stomach. As a rule, heartburn is harmless and is considered to be a very common and widespread disease, especially during pregnancy. But it can also be very painful and bring a lot of discomfort to your life.
Statistics claim that about 80% of pregnant women suffer from heartburn. It is the second half of pregnancy when the heartburn usually starts revealing itself. It can last for a few hours a day and the bouts increase after the food intake.
Heartburn During Pregnancy – Causes
There are two major causes of heartburn during pregnancy.
The first is hormonal: at the very beginning of pregnancy, it is hormonal changes in the body that cause heartburn. The stomach and gullet are separated from each other by the sphincter that doesn’t allow the food to come back. During pregnancy, the levels of hormone progesterone increase – and this hormone is responsible for unstriped muscles relaxation. The sphincter is also an unstriped muscle. Heartburn is considered to be one of the signs of early toxicosis, and it often stops during the 13-14th week of pregnancy.
The second reason lies hidden in additional pressure on the stomach: heartburn during the latest stages of pregnancy can be explained by the growth of the fetus, increased size of the uterus, and, as a consequence, that extra pressure on the stomach. As a result, it flattens and raises a little, throwing its contents into the gullet.
But there is no reason to worry about it. Heartburn during pregnancy is not dangerous, it does both mother and baby’s health no harm and it disappears together with pregnancy. Some may note heartburn as a sign of pregnancy in the early stages.
Factors Contributing to Heartburn During Pregnancy
- Taking spasmolytic meds, that relax the muscles of internal organs. If the heartburn has appeared after taking these meds – tell your doctor.
- Wearing tight clothes can also cause heartburn. Don’t bend forward, it is better to sit down (to squat). Don’t lie down for 30 minutes after the food intake. Also, try not to overeat before night sleep.
- Eating and drinking the products that cause an increased acid release into the stomach – soda, coffee, spicy dishes, sour fruits, vegetables and berries, and also all the cultured milk foods (except for kefir, or buttermilk – kind of yoghurt).
Heartburn During Pregnancy – Treatment
In mild cases of heartburn, the doctors usually advise to get on the diet and change the lifestyle a little bit. Here are some general rules that will help you to avoid or lower the display of heartburn during pregnancy:
- exclude or lower the consumption of fat and fried food as well as chocolate, because these products provoke an additional sphincter relaxation;
- eat small portions 5-6 times a day with 1.5-2 hour intervals before each food intake. Eat slowly, chewing very thoroughly;
- heartburn tends to appear during first 2 hours after food intake, so try not to lie down right after you have something to eat;
- try sleeping on the bed with a pillow slightly elevated (or add another pillow to raise you a little bit).
Despite the discomfort heartburn brings to future mommies, it doesn’t affect the fetus in any way. Start fighting your heartburn with the diet and you might avoid the necessity of taking medications.
Handle with Care
As a future mother try to avoid taking spasmolytic unless there is a case of need. These meds will only relax the sphincter and contribute to heartburn during pregnancy. Also, be cautious when taking some herbs, such as mint, for example.
Another remedy you might have heard about is cooking soda. And it really makes the burning sensation go away, but not for long. Besides, when the cooking soda enters into a reaction with gastric juice – carbonic acid is produced. This acid is capable of quick secretagogue activity, producing new portions of hydrochloric acid and bringing the heartburn back. Keep in mind that sodium (which is an element of baking soda) is absorbed by the intestine and can cause edemas, which is a bad thing for expecting women.
Safe Heartburn Treatment
During pregnancy, you can use antacid medications. Magnesium and aluminum salts are the components of these meds. They neutralize the acid that is a part of gastric juice, create a protective film on the inner stomach wall, and tone the lower sphincter of the gullet. The antiacid medications’ side effects include constipation (because of potassium and aluminum salts) while magnesium in its turn comes with a relaxing effect. So don’t use these meds for a long period of time.
If you are taking them, take into account their abilities to absorb other meds. So you’d better take some time between taking various medications.
Foods in Treating and Preventing Heartburn During Pregnancy
Among the products that can stop heartburn during the first weeks of pregnancy are raw carrot, yogurt, milk, raisins, wheat cereals, and wheat bran. Besides, wheat bran, raisins, and carrot also help to clear the body of chemical waste better and faster.
Honey is an old remedy for heartburn and is safe during the early stages of pregnancy. Eat one tbsp. of honey after eating or dissolve it in the warm water or tea without caffeine and drink. Honey envelopes the gullet, prevent acid from coming up.
Milk, ice cream, and yogurt are other perfect weapons against heartburn. A few drinks or bites and the unpleasant burning sensation are gone. What is more, they have calcium, potassium, and magnesium that tend to regulate pH levels in the stomach. The same result will be achieved if you drink grapefruit or carrot juice.
Pineapple and papaya contain the ferments that assuage the stomach and lower acid levels. Eat some fresh pineapple or papaya right after dinner or just swallow a pill with papaya extract to ease the heartburn.
Various nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds) are also great helpers, but they are more likely to prevent heartburn than to eliminate the existing one. Many people claim that the sunflower seeds help as well, but as with any nuts you should keep within limits. A few seeds or nuts are good but don’t eat kilos of them, they contain lots of fat and calories.
Whatever remedy you choose to treat heartburn during pregnancy, make sure that it is safe for your health. If you have any doubts consult your doctor first.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.