Heartburn during pregnancy is never a pleasant experience. Unfortunately, due to your body’s changes, pregnant women are more likely to experience heartburn starting the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy. Although this acid indigestion, only adds to your discomfort, often times it will not have any adverse effects for you or your baby.
The two main causes for heartburn in pregnant woman are: changes in hormones and pressure on the stomach. There is usually an increase in the hormone progesterone. This hormone is known to relax muscles; in this case the muscles in the lower esophageal sphincter. These sphincter muscles are the ones that keep the acid from your stomach from going back up your esophagus. With these muscles now more relaxed the acid from your stomach is more apt to get through causing heartburn.
Progesterone also slows down the digestive process, causing food to sit in your stomach longer. Teamed with the extra space the baby takes up, it puts a further strain on the sphincter muscle. This increased stomach pressure is another main cause of heartburn during pregnancy.
Treatment of heartburn during pregnancy
There is a long list of simple things you can do while pregnant to get rid of heartburn. The list however, comes down to two main things: diet changes, and stomach pressure changes.
Certain foods are linked to heartburn, so it is best to avoid these foods. This includes: alcohol, carbonated drinks, caffeine, chocolate, citrus foods, spicy foods, fatty foods (especially fried foods), tomato based foods, vinegar, mustard, processed meats, and mint.
Chewing gum and eating calcium rich foods, such as milk and yogurt, have been known to combat the effects of heartburn. Smoking however, increases the acid in your stomach and can lead to heartburn.
Some things you can do to reduce the pressure on your stomach are: eat small meals, eat slower, drink less while eating (it is still important to get your 8 glasses of water in, but sip throughout the day and limit beverage intake while you eat), make sure your shoulders and head are above your stomach when resting, wear clothing that is loose on your stomach and abdomen, and don’t gain more weight than needed. Another tip is to bend at the knees instead of the waist to reduce stomach pressure.
Some over the counter antacid medications like Tums or Maalox may be safe to take. Be sure to purchase ones with calcium and magnesium. The antacid tablets you want to avoid are the ones that contain aluminum, aspirin, and high amounts of sodium. As with any medication, it is important you consult your doctor first. If a stronger prescription is needed they can prescribe one that will be safe to take during pregnancy. (Make sure you contact your doctor immediately if your heartburn wakes you up at night, you have difficulty swallowing, you are spitting up blood, you have black stools, or you are losing weight; as these symptoms can be signs of a more serious problem.)
For the most part with these helpful tips it will be easy to find a safe comfortable way to get rid of your heartburn during pregnancy.