Heartburn is one of the many discomforts experienced by pregnant woman. The pregnancy experience can be a test of patience for every woman. It is a waiting game wherein your body undergoes special developments while giving a room for nurturance for the growing baby inside the womb. A woman who is pregnant has special concerns as the baby is getting bigger than ever. Any woman will experience acid refluxes during pregnancy and even a woman has never experienced heartburns in her entire life may have them on pregnancy.
The Symptoms of Heartburn
Pregnant women may describe a heartburn as a burning sensation in the chest and throat, belching, and sour, acidic taste in their mouths. It can happen for just a phase or all throughout the pregnancy experience. Many women may become all too familiar with it but why should one suffer these symptom when there are many relief measures available?
The Causes of Heartburn During Pregnancy
A pregnant woman may produce symptoms of acid reflux due to many reasons. There are increased levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones during pregnancy which makes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) pressure to decrease. The main function of the lower esophageal sphincter is to open and close during swallowing, allowing the food contents to pass through the esophagus into the stomach. It also prevents the backflow of stomach contents such as food particles and stomach acid. When these hormones are elevated, the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes and thus, decrease its function. Another cause of regurgitation of stomach contents causing a heartburn is the increased intra-abdominal pressure, which can be due to many factors such as the increased size of the abdomen, increased size of the fetus, stooping, and bending. Below are several tips to lessen the frequency of occurrence of heartburns during pregnancy. These do not totally eliminate the problem but can help in lessening the discomforts, especially during pregnancy.
- Quit smoking – Of course, it is already given that you should quit smoking during pregnancy because of the harmful effects that it can produce on the baby and on the mother’s body. Smoking also causes irritation on the gastrointestinal tract. It can increase the stomach acid production and causes decreased lower esophageal sphincter pressure.
- Avoid foods containing caffeine, chocolate, citrus fruits and juices, peppermints, tomatoes, and tomato-based products, mustard, vinegar, spicy, fatty, and highly seasoned foods. These foods irritate the gastrointestinal tract further and cause increased acid production. These foods are called heartburn trigger foods.
- Eat in small, frequent feedings – eating frequent, small meals empties the stomach more rapidly. Eating more frequently increases stomach contractions. If the stomach is contracting and regularly empties, there is less residue and less reflux of stomach contents.
- Avoid drinks containing caffeine such as coffee, cola, and tea—these can relax the lower esophageal sphincter and stimulate an increase of stomach acid production.
- Alcohol also relaxes the LES and so it should be avoided completely, especially during pregnancy.
- Eating in a relaxed, unrushed manner – taking your time in eating and chewing your food will help in proper digestion in the stomach. This aids in proper gastric emptying and lessens the risk for indigestion and heartburn symptoms.
- Wait at least 1-3 hours before going to bed. When you lie flat, the tendency is that the stomach contents can readily regurgitate easily, due to increased abdominal pressure.
- Lie on your left side while sleeping – lying on your back can be very uncomfortable as the weight of the growing baby inside the womb adds more to the increased intra-abdominal pressure. The gastric contents empty at the right side of the stomach. If you lie on your left side, most likely, you will have regurgitation because the lower lower esophageal sphincter is located slightly left of the body.
- Gain a sensible amount of weight. I understand that eating a lot during pregnancy is difficult to fight because the growing fetus needs more energy and so you tend to be hungry more frequently. Try small frequent feedings in order to address this need but adding too much weight can only put you more at risk for many heartburn incidences since you will have a bigger baby too.
- Wear light, loose, and comfortable clothing. Tight and restricted clothing will only add pressure on your abdominal pressure.
- Bend your knees instead of stooping when you pick up things from the floor. Reaching out too low will pose increased intra-abdominal pressure since you put too much pressure on your stomach when you stoop. Using your legs to compensate on this activity will lessen the occurrence of acid reflux.
- Observe a good posture when sitting –sitting up straight instead of slouching will give room for your abdomen than when you are slouching. Slouching increases intra-abdominal pressure.
- Sleep with two to three pillows or a semi-Fowler’s position in order to decrease regurgitation symptoms. It also helps in preventing aspiration of stomach contents.
- Ice chips or chewing of unsweetened gum can help in increasing production of saliva, thus increasing swallowing frequency that will aid a lot in your gastric emptying and clearing away acid that has refluxed from the stomach to the esophagus.
- Histamine-2 receptors blockers such as Ranitidine, Proton Pump Inhibitors such as Lansoprazole, and Aluminum Hydroxide preparations can help decrease gastric symptoms and hyperacidity of the stomach, thus decreasing acid reflux symptoms but remember to consult these first with your doctor before taking any medication. These medications are safe for the baby inside your womb but for safety and security but having your condition assessed by a doctor will help in managing your symptoms and treatment options.