Heartburn is reported as the most familiar gastrointestinal challenge in pregnant women. The percentage of pregnant women affected is between 18%-45%. It increases with the age of the pregnancy.
Acid reflux results from changes in hormones and the growing fetus that presses against your stomach. These hormones relax the stomach entrance valves, making them unable to close as expected.
You can easily relieve the heartburn by changing your diet, using a home remedy, or taking a heartburn tablet that does not harm your pregnancy. Remember that any tablet you consume during pregnancy is a doctor’s prescription.
What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy?
Between your abdomen and chest is the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES). This pair of tissue plays an important role in helping you eat. It allows food to pass then closes to prevent acid sliding back to the oesophagus. However, when it malfunctions, it is the main cause of heartburn. The sour-tasting chest pangs experienced.
The progesterone hormone causes the LES valve to relax. This leads to partially digested food and stomach acid flowing back up the oesophagus.
There are numerous changes going on in a woman’s body during pregnancy. Besides the hormonal changes, there is the enlarging of the uterus as the baby grows. The uterus expansion adds pressure to the stomach.
Since the stomach has acid, the pressure causes it to backflow into the oesophagus. As a result, there is irritation and pain.
In a condition named macrosomia, a baby is too large and presses onto your stomach, forcing the acid back up the food pipe.
Being pregnant with multiples also contributes to pressure increase in your stomach.
During the last phase of pregnancy, if your baby is in a breech position of bottom-first, it can put more pressure on your diaphragm and cause heartburn.
Symptoms of Heartburn During Pregnancy
- Feelings of burning or soreness in your chest, particularly after eating
- Experiencing feelings of heaviness, fullness, or bloating
- Belching or burping frequently
- Your mouth has a sour or bitter flavour to it.
- A cough or a sore throat
Tips on How to Prevent and Manage Heartburn
1. Avoid Taking Alcohol and Smoking
Although neither alcohol nor smoking causes heartburn, they worsen reflux.
Alcohol and cigar, source free stock images
2. On weight gain
Strive to have a healthier weight gain based on your body mass index (BMI). You should know your BMI before you are pregnant. You calculate it easily using your weight and height.
If your BMI was less than 30 before you conceived, you should gain 25lbs during pregnancy.
Similarly, if your BMI was between 30-35, you should gain 20lbs during pregnancy.
However, if your BMI was more this 35 before you got pregnant, you should gain little to no weight during pregnancy. The reason for this is the extra weight causes increased pressure on your stomach, making reflux worse.
There are other reasons for maintaining a healthy weight gain that is more important than relieving heartburn.
3. Elevate the head of your bed
Elevate the head of your bed slightly. You can use cinder blocks, 6″-8″ and put them under the head of the bed.
Also, you can elevate your upper body with pillows when sleeping or sleep on the side. With this, you ensure that your stomach is lower than the oesophagus.
4. Establish the proper eating habits
There are certain foods to avoid if you notice eating them always gives you reflux. These food include:
- Caffeinated drinks like coffee
- Sugary foods like cola
- Fried foods
- Citric fruits like orange juice
- Spices like peppermint
In the same line, some foods neutralise heartburn. They include:
- Cold almond milk
- Apple cider vinegar
Eat small portions of food as opposed to eating three large meals. You can do this every three hours.
Take plenty of water and other beneficial fluids.
Take sugarless gum after meals. Chewing gum stimulates saliva, which assists in food digestion in the stomach and through the intestines. This reduces the occurrence of reflux. Furthermore, saliva neutralises the acid.
Also, you can chew almonds. Almonds contain fatty acids such as omega 3 and 6. These acids have an anti-inflammatory effect on the oesophagus. Besides, almonds contain vegetable proteins that affect PH in the stomach. Consequently, less gastric acid will be produced.
Some ladies opt to take a glass of milk or yoghurt after meals.
Avoid eating meals three hours before bedtime or sooner. This is because the food will be on your stomach when you lie down. Consequently, it can easily return to the oesophagus, causing reflux.
Similarly, do not lie down after meals.
5. Some Exercising Tips
Supported backbend yoga for your stomach. To do this, you need a yoga mat, a nursing pillow and two yoga blocks. To do this, place one of the blocks upright and the other one at the side of it. Place your nursing pillow on top.
Sit upright at the edge of the nursing pillow. Place the soles of your feet together. Use your hands to support yourself down to lay on your nursing pillow. You can use a little pillow to support your head better.
Continue to face your palms upwards, close your eyes, and breathe deeply into your belly. Relax.
Heartburns are best treated using a doctor’s prescription or over counter drugs. Here are some:
Antacids are the most efficient way to treat heartburn. They contain magnesium or calcium, which are known to help ease this ailment.
When taking over-the-counter antacids, exercise caution. Aspirin is present in several of these medications. Unless your doctor says it’s acceptable, don’t take aspirin or aspirin-containing drugs while you’re pregnant.
Antacids containing sodium bicarbonate (such as baking soda) should not be used during pregnancy since fluid accumulation can induce. Calcium carbonate-containing antacids are safe to take.
Proton pump inhibitors and H2 Blockers
These drugs alter the chemical signals that are responsible for stomach acid. They are available as prescriptions and over the counter. However, if you are taking any iron supplements, seek your doctor’s lead as these drugs inhibit the supplement’s effectiveness.
Although heartburn is generally harmless, it can be pretty uncomfortable. If the basic burning sensation in your chest jumps into severe pains or difficulty in swallowing or blood in stool, seek doctors intervention.
Most importantly, it does not affect your child, and it will cease after giving birth.
Some tips like knowing which foods to avoid and which food calms reflux will assist you. Lastly, before you take any OTC drug, discuss with your doctor for the safest prescription.