Heartburn during pregnancy

unhappy pregnant womanMany women have heartburn for the first time during pregnancy, particularly during the second and third trimesters. For some women, it just occurs every so often. But for others, it can be a relentless annoyance that gets worse as the pregnancy progresses.

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid is pushed up into the esophagus, the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach. Pregnancy hormones can relax the flap that separates your esophagus from your stomach and this can allow acids and food to move back up into your esophagus. This creates the burning sensation known as heartburn.

Pregnancy hormones also slow down the muscles that push food from your esophagus into your stomach and the muscles that contract to digest food in your stomach. This means that digestion actually takes longer during pregnancy. These changes can lead to indigestion, which can make you feel very full, bloated or gassy.

As your pregnancy progresses, your growing baby can also put pressure on your stomach and contribute to reflux. This is why many women experience more heartburn during the second and third trimesters.

Several things can cause heartburn and indigestion, such as:

• Greasy or fatty foods

• Chocolate, coffee and other drinks containing caffeine

• Onions, garlic or spicy foods

• Certain medications

• Eating a very large meal

• Eating too quickly

• Lying down after eating

There are a few things that you can do during pregnancy to try to help prevent heartburn:

Graze. Eating five or six small meals a day can help your body digest food better.

Grab a spoon. A few bites of plain, nonfat yogurt can sometimes help relieve the burning sensation.

Eat smart. Avoid spicy, greasy or fatty foods, chocolate and caffeine that can trigger heartburn

Loosen up. Wear loose clothing. Clothes that are tight can increase the pressure on your stomach.

Sit up after eating. Remaining upright allows gravity to help keep stomach contents out of your esophagus. If you can, wait at least 3 hours after a meal to lie down or go to bed.

Prop up your bed. Use pillows to prop up your mattress so that you raise your head a few inches higher than your stomach as you sleep.

Talk to your provider. If you need an antacid to relieve symptoms, talk to your health care provider to choose the right one for you. Over-the-counter antacids are usually considered safe during pregnancy, but do not take them unless you’ve talked to your doctor.

For most people, heartburn is temporary and mild. But severe heartburn can be the sign of a more serious problem. Talk to your health care provider if you have any of the following:

• Heartburn that returns as soon as your antacid wears off

• Heartburn that often wakes you up at night

• Difficulty swallowing

• Spitting up blood

• Black stools

• Weight loss

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