Pregnancy can be a stressful time for expectant mothers, especially if it’s the first time, with every symptom of discomfort seemingly a cause for worry for the health of the unborn child. One such ailment is heartburn (also called acid reflux), a common occurrence in pregnant women. In fact, it could be their first experience with the uncomfortable sensation, causing worry and fear. Heartburn during pregnancy, even though it is painful and uncomfortable, it is often harmless.
Heartburn is a result of hormonal and physical changes in your woman’s body. The same hormone that helps loosen muscles for pregnancy also relaxes the valve that keeps stomach acid from rising into the esophagus, the tube that connects the stomach to the throat. At the same time, the growing baby pushes on the stomach, pushing acid upwards. The acid irritates the esophagus and results in a burning sensation that often stretches from the lower throat to the bottom of the breastbone. It can leave a sour and bitter taste in the mouth as the acid rises.
Expectant mothers usually get heartburn and indigestion in the second half of pregnancy, though some may experience it before. If you are pregnant and suffering from heartburn, relief is possible. From simple changes to medical treatments, here are some suggestions that may help:
- Avoid trigger foods. Although in general spicy food or deep-fried snacks increase the acid level of the stomach, some women may be fine eating, others not. Caffeinated drinks, alcohol, citrus fruits and juices can also be triggers.
- Drink water to help ease discomfort. Water helps with digestion and reduces stomach acidity. Try to drink in small amounts, and before or after meals, not during, in order to avoid getting too full.
- Eat small meals more often instead of three large meals a day. This gives the body time to digest food and will cause less acid reflux.
- Plan mealtimes to avoid eating or drinking anything but water for three hours before your bedtime.
- Don’t lie down for at least an hour after eating. Sit up, stand, take a leisurely walk or take care of any light chores. Avoid activities that require bending forward, as that may bring stomach contents out
- Wear comfortable, loose clothes that don’t put pressure around the stomach area.
- Sleeping with the torso propped up can also help if the heartburn is persistent at night.
- Try antacids. In general non-prescription antacids containing calcium or magnesium are considered safe.
- If nothing seems to help, consult your doctor to pursue other treatment options.
If you are going to take medication to ease symptoms, make sure you talk to your doctor first.
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