Pregnancy can change your body in more than one way. During this phase, you will experience a multitude of things, all at once. One common and troublesome symptom experienced by expecting mothers is heartburn or acid indigestion.
Despite the severity of this symptom, most pregnant women are not willing to take any medications, fearing the side effects associated with them. Hence, if you are an expecting mother who has been on the lookout for natural ways to soothe heartburn during pregnancy, we are here to help.
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When Does Heartburn Start During Pregnancy?
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux that results from the irritation of the esophagus or food pipe. This irritation is triggered by stomach acid that comes back up from the stomach. Heartburn is also referred to as acid indigestion.
Almost 50% of pregnant women are reported to exhibit severe symptoms of heartburn. This is especially apparent in the second and third trimester of pregnancy, which is when the growing uterus ends up exerting increased pressure on the stomach (1).
Let us now look at the potential triggers of heartburn in pregnancy.
What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy?
Many factors can be held responsible for causing heartburn during pregnancy:
- Shifting hormonal levels
- Pregnancy hormones – Secretion of hormones like progesterone increases during pregnancy. This can trigger the lower esophageal sphincter, which is a muscle wall between your stomach and esophagus, to relax. This can cause acid to flow back up into the esophagus (1).
- The enlargement of the uterus is another factor that can trigger heartburn by exerting pressure on the stomach and forcing the stomach acid to be pushed up (2).
- Presence of gallstones (this happens rarely)
Heartburn during pregnancy can be quite a task to deal with. Combined with all the other changes that are happening to your body at this point, it may also end up taking a toll on you.
Listed below are some amazing tips that can help you deal with heartburn during pregnancy without the need for medications.
How To Prevent And Treat Heartburn During Pregnancy
1. Eat Small Meals At Regular Intervals
Instead of the usual three large meals a day, try and have several small meals every hour or two. Eating small meals will not just help with heartburn but also provide relief from bloating and lack of energy (1), (3).
2. Avoid Triggers
Identify foods that trigger heartburn or worsen the condition. Spicy, fried, and processed foods are often noted to cause heartburn and hence must be avoided (4). Other foods known to trigger this condition include chocolate, caffeine, carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, and mint (3).
3. Don’t Drink And Eat Together
Try to drink as less fluids as possible while eating. Drinking too many fluids with meals can worsen the symptoms of heartburn.
4. Avoid Lying Down Right After Eating
Do not lie down right after eating. Try to sit upright for at least a couple of hours after a meal. Slouching or lying down right after a meal can increase the chances of stomach acid coming back right up (5).
5. Elevate The Head Of Your Bed
Try and keep the head of the bed elevated. You can also place more than one pillow behind your shoulders. This can prevent stomach acid from flowing back up while you are sleeping (6).
6. Eat A Couple Hours Before Bedtime
Irrespective of whether you are at home or spending some time outside, be sure to have an early dinner. Avoid eating your dinner right before bedtime to help your stomach digest the food before you turn in for the day (3). However, you can have light snacks before bedtime.
7. Quit Smoking
If you haven’t already, quit smoking now. Smoking is not only harmful to the health of your unborn child but is also known to trigger acid reflux and heartburn. So, stay away from smoking as well as second-hand smoking (6).
8. Keep A Check On Your Weight
Obesity is one of the many significant risk factors for heartburn (7). Hence, it is important that you manage your weight and gain weight gradually during pregnancy. Pregnancy is bound to increase your cravings and appetite. Make sure you eat moderately. It will not just help you to get back in shape faster post pregnancy but will also help with heartburn.
9. Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing
Wearing tight-fitting and unbreathable clothing can put extra pressure on the already crowded stomach, thereby increasing the chances of heartburn.
10. Chew Some Gum
Yes, you read that right! Simply chewing gum about 30 minutes after every heavy meal can facilitate digestion. This is because chewing gum increases the production of saliva, which is an acid buffer. This helps reduce the levels of stomach acid in the esophagus and can help treat heartburn (8).
These tips are guaranteed to leave you feeling a lot better. Following them can help manage and prevent the symptoms of acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) during pregnancy.
Hope you found the post helpful. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and feedback with us in the comments section below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Does heartburn during pregnancy hurt the baby?
No, heartburn is not likely to hurt the baby. However, the weight exerted by the growing baby on the stomach can increase the symptoms of heartburn in the final stages of pregnancy.
Can heartburn hint gender?
Many old wives tales say that heartburn can hint at the gender of the baby. However, this far from true.
Is heartburn a symptom of pregnancy?
Yes, heartburn can also be a symptom of early pregnancy other than the usual morning sickness. This is due to the release of progesterone hormone that relaxes the uterine muscle, thereby crowding the stomach muscles and causing symptoms of heartburn.
Is heartburn in early pregnancy a sign of twins?
Severe heartburn symptoms could indicate twins due to the increased pressure the fetuses exert on the stomach. However, it is not necessarily an early sign of expecting twins. Expecting women carrying twins experience more severe symptoms of heartburn as compared to those carrying a single child.
What medications can I take for heartburn during pregnancy?
Some over-the-counter antacids that can help with heartburn symptoms include Tums, Rolaids, and Maalox. Avoid antacids that contain high levels of sodium and magnesium as sodium can lead to the build-up of fluid in the tissues, whereas, magnesium can interact with contractions in the later stages. Consult your doctor to figure out the best heartburn medication.
Does heartburn during pregnancy hint at a hairy baby?
While this may sound folksy, it is indeed true. According to a study published in the journal Birth, there is an association between the severity of heartburn during pregnancy and the volume of newborn hair (9).
Does GERD occur during pregnancy?
Many pregnant women exhibit symptoms of GERD, especially heartburn. This is quite common and is a result of the increased pressure on the stomach due to the secretion of the progesterone hormone.
When to visit a doctor for heartburn during pregnancy?
If symptoms of heartburn do not improve despite diet and lifestyle changes or if they turn more severe, you can visit a doctor. Your doctor will then prescribe medication that is safe to be taken during pregnancy.
- “Heartburn in pregnancy” Clinical Evidence, US National Library Of Medicine.
- “Interventions for heartburn in pregnancy” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, US National Library Of Medicine.
- “Risk factors for gastroesophageal reflux disease: the role of diet” Przegla̜d Gastroenterologiczny, US National Library Of Medicine.
- “Health Tips for Pregnant Women” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- “Effect of sleep, spontaneous gastroesophageal reflux, and a meal on upper esophageal sphincter pressure in normal human volunteers.” Gastroenterology, US National Library Of Medicine.
- “Advances in GERD” Gastroenterology & Hepatology, US National Library Of Medicine
- “Obesity is an independent risk factor for GERD symptoms and erosive esophagitis.” American Journal of Gastroenterology, US National Library Of Medicine.
- “The effect of chewing sugar-free gum on gastro-esophageal reflux.” Journal of Dental Research, US National Library Of Medicine.
- “Pregnancy folklore revisited: the case of heartburn and hair.” Birth, US National Library Of Medicine.
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