Managing Heartburn During Pregnancy
- Friday, 06 February 2009
Alongside the joys of pregnancy frequently come a few discomforts, with heartburn being one of the more common ones. Heartburn, also called acid reflux and GERD, is that uncomfortable sensation of having your stomach acids move back up and into your esophagus, causing a burning feeling. Even though heartburn is not limited to pregnancy, for many women pregnancy is often their first and only experience with it.
Heartburn tends to occur during pregnancy because of the rapid rise of the hormone progesterone. The increase of progesterone helps to relax the uterine muscles to allow for the fetus’s growth, but conversely, it can also relax the small valve that separates the esophagus and the stomach. When this closure becomes too relaxed, stomach acids can escape the stomach and irritate the esophageal lining which is much more sensitive. The physical pressure on the stomach caused by a growing baby can also contribute to the problem.
The good news is that heartburn may often be minimized by following some key recommendations. By avoiding triggers and optimizing digestion, pregnant women can often control this unpleasant digestive issue that regularly arises during the second and especially third trimesters.
Eat smaller meals more often
Eating large meals during pregnancy can often aggravate heartburn as the stomach is often squished due to the baby’s size and position, and therefore fills up quickly. Eating smaller meals throughout the day helps to ensure the stomach is not filled up beyond its capacity.
Avoid the usual triggers
When it comes to heartburn, there are often specific foods that can set it off. The typical culprits are caffeine, chocolate, citrus fruit, tomatoes, vinegar, carbonated drinks, and fried foods. These foods can irritate the stomach lining and encourage heartburn. Keeping a food journal can often help you to identify which foods are triggers for you.
Don’t drink with meals
Drinking with meals will not only impair digestion by diluting your stomach’s enzymes, it can also over-fill it quickly, leading to the possibility of stomach contents being pushed upwards. Although drinking water is important, try to do so around meals instead of with meals.
Chewing food adequately helps to support digestion by reducing the workload of the stomach and pancreas. When food isn’t properly broken down by the moutth, this can lead to overburdening the whole digestive system. Try chewing your food to a paste. Take your time, don't rush at the dinner table.
Don’t eat before sleep
Try to avoid eating meals close to bedtime or even naptime. By lying down shortly after eating, you risk putting your body in a position in which acid reflux is much more likely to occur. Try to keep at least 2 hours between eating and sleeping. If you must lie down within that time frame, try and prop up your upper body with a few pillows to avoid a completely horizontal position.
Avoid tight fitting clothing
Tight fitting clothing can put more pressure on the abdomen and thus increase the emptying of the stomach into the esophagus. To avoid the occurrence of heartburn, wear loose clothing that doesn’t restrict movement.
In the case that heartburn does arise, you can help to alleviate the pain by drinking milk or eating some plain yogurt.