WHAT CAUSES HEARTBURN DURING PREGNANCY?
Due to all the hormones circulating through your body during pregnancy, the muscle at the top of your stomach– the one that usually prevents digestive acids from splashing into the esophagus– relaxes (like all those other muscles in your digestive tract– and everywhere else in your body). This allows those painfully acidic digestive juices to splash back up, causing irritation and burning. What’s more, you’ll feel a surge starting around week 30 to week 36, when your gigantic uterus (which has taken over your abdominal cavity) forces your stomach upwards toward your throat (at least that’s the way it can feel).
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The chances of having a completely heartburn-free pregnancy are slim to none. The good news is pregnancy-induced indigestion is also nothing to worry about– and it should disappear as soon as your baby appears on the scene. In the meantime, there are plenty of preventive measures and soothing strategies you can try.
HEARTBURN PREVENTION WHILE PREGNANT
There are several ways to control and treat heartburn relief during pregnancy. And with a lot of options– and so much time– you’ll probably try them all:
Don’t smoke. It’s yet another need to quit today, if you haven’t already– and it’s not even the very best one.
Watch your weight. Keep your pregnancy weight gain gradual and moderate to minimize the amount of pressure on your digestive tract. Extra pounds can make heartburn extra worse. Try to stay within the 25-to-35-pound recommended range.
Avoid heartburn-trigger foods. Some foods are sure to light your heartburn fire. Just say no to highly seasoned spicy food, caffeine (this also relaxes the esophageal valve), alcohol (which is off the menu anyway), greasy foods of all kinds, and too much citrus. (If OJ gives you trouble, water it down a bit– or buy a low-acid variety.) Peppermint turns up the burn in some women, but not all.
Drink before and after meals. And try not to drink while you’re eating– or if you do, just drink a little. Way too much fluid mixed with too much food will distend the stomach, aggravating heartburn.
Break it up. Skip those big meals altogether– six small meals are the solution to just about whatever pregnancy symptoms are ailing you, from heartburn to bloating to lagging energy level.
Prop with pillows. Even if you’ve put a few hours between your last mealtime and bedtime try sleeping with your head elevated about six inches. This helps to keep those gastric juices where they belong.
Think loose and flowing. For heartburn relief while pregnant, wear clothes that breathe. No matter how voluptuous your upper curves make you feel, if you have heartburn, now is not the time to wear anything that Pamela Anderson might favor– tight clothes just fuel the burn.
Catch the early bird special. Not to save money– but to save yourself heartburn. Whether you’re eating at home or out, take your last big meal a minimum of two hours before bedtime so your stomach can get started on digestion before you lie down for the night. (A before-bed snack is fine, so long as it’s light and easy to digest.).
Sit up and take notice. Make certain to sit upright while eating– and stay that way for a couple of hours after you eat. Lying down, slouching, slumping, and stooping will do you in. And when you have to bend, do it with your knees instead of at your waist (or you’ll send all that acid for a repeat ride up your esophagus).
Chew it over. Do your body a favor and eat slowly. Chewing is the first step in the digestive process, but the one that’s most often neglected when eating’s done on the run. The more you chew, the less work your stomach has to do. Plus when you eat too quickly, you often swallow air, which can form gas pockets in your belly.
HEARTBURN RELIEF AND TREATMENT.
Pop a stick of sugarless gum after meals. It helps reduce excess acid (increased saliva can neutralize the acid in your esophagus). If you’re concerned about artificial sweeteners and pregnancy, breathe freely– sugarless gum is fine in moderation.
Stay prepared. Keep a supply of Tums or Rolaids at popping distance (they’ll also give you a healthy dose of calcium while they ease the burn), but avoid medicines which contain sodium or sodium bicarbonate.
Block it. If your heartburn is persistent, you may want to talk to your doctor about over-the-counter heartburn medicines that control acid production, like proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2 blockers. They’re generally considered safe during pregnancy– but as with any medication, you’ll want to get the OK and the recommended dosage first from your practitioner.
Feel like a natural woman. If you like to avoid over-the-counter remedies, you can try the following popular folk remedies for heartburn relief while pregnant instead.
Papaya: Make sure the papaya is very ripe; unripe papaya may cause uterine contractions. Or ask your practitioner about the safety of using chewable papaya enzymes. (You can find these in health-food stores.).
Almonds: Good for calcium as well as being a stomach-settler.
A tablespoon of honey in warm milk: Yummy and relaxing. Some say all dairy helps, and others say the opposite. (At the very least you’ll get in your calcium.).
If acid reflux occurs much more than twice a week, or if you haven’t found relief after taking over-the-counter medications for more than two weeks, you may have a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that requires specific lifestyle changes and medication– so make certain to speak with your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.