Heartburn During Pregnancy
Causes of Heartburn During PregnancyHeartburn involves a burning sensation that the mother experiences in the central chest region. It normally occurs due to indigestion and is caused by acid reflux into the esophagus (food pipe). The lower esophageal sphincter (LOS) is the muscle responsible for pushing food from the food pipe to the stomach and ensuring that it does not move up in the reverse direction. When the LOS relaxes or begins leaking, the acid and other contents of the stomach come in contact with the walls of the food pipe. Since the walls of the food pipe are not equipped to handle the impact of acid, they produce the burning pain that is characteristic of heartburn.
The frequency of heartburn is more among pregnant women for two reasons.
The first reason involves the secretion of the pregnancy hormone relaxin. Relaxin works on the joints and strengthens the connective tissues in order to prepare the woman’s body for a healthy delivery. Relaxin simultaneously slows down digestion and allows the food to remain in the stomach for longer hours. This, in turn, activates the parietal cells present on the walls of the stomach to secrete more acid to digest the food. The excess acid may leak out and cause heartburn.
The second reason why pregnant women are impacted by heartburns is the growing fetus. The fetus exerts pressure on the organs located above the womb including the stomach and the LOS. This results in the acid spilling out of the stomach and into the food pipe. Regardless of the reason that causes a heartburn, most pregnant women suffer from a persistent, searing pain and often experience an unpleasant lingering aftertaste of their meals for hours.
Methods to Get Rid of Heartburn During Pregnancy1. Monitor your Food Intake
Doctors advise expectant mothers to eat less in one meal. Instead of consuming a huge chunk of food at one go, one should break up their meals into smaller portions and divide it evenly through the day. Basically, as an alternative to eating two square meals a day, patients are advised to consume four to six mini meals.
The stomach has lesser space to expand since the growing fetus takes up much room. Eating less solves the problem and prevents gaining additional pounds that only aggravate the condition further. Moreover, the meals around lunch time should be heavier while keeping the morning and night meals lighter. This allows the body to have more time to digest the heavy meal. Smaller and healthier meals will prevent heartburns throughout the course of pregnancy.
2. Avoid Foods that can Trigger a Heartburn
Several food items can increase the possibility of a heartburn episode. These food items should be strictly eliminated from the diet of the expectant mother. Some examples of such food substances include spicy food, foods that are high on acids like citrus fruits (lemons, grapefruit, oranges, etc.), tomatoes, chocolates, coffee, alcohol and oily or fried foods. Try and recognize your individual heartburn triggers.
3. Incorporate Fluids into your Meals
Women have noticed that liquid diets tend to cause fewer problems than solid foods. Hence, one could try to consume foods in the form of smoothies, milkshakes, juices, oats, and puddings and so on. Dairy products like yogurt work wonder on heartburn cases and help the aggravated esophagus to relax. A protein-rich diet is also known to be useful. While consuming solid food items, women should chew slowly and grind the food well into a liquefied paste before swallowing. This will prevent indigestion. Drinking water before or after a meal rather than during a meal is useful to soothe heartburn.
4. Calcium-containing Antacids
Antacids work towards neutralizing the environment in the stomach, thereby relieving heartburn. One can obtain over-the-counter antacids that will help feel better almost immediately. A word of caution is that one must carefully monitor the amount of pills being popped as calcium can interfere with iron absorption and therefore cause anemia. Consult your doctor before you use antacids.
5. Stay Hydrated
The occurrence of heartburn may be an indication that you are not completely hydrated. Pregnant women should ideally consume around 10-12 glasses of water every day. The excess fluid makes the whole process of digestion proceed more smoothly. Again, water should not be had during the meal as it can dilute the digestive juices in the stomach and stimulate more secretion of acids.
6. Dress Loose and Flowy
Avoid wearing tight clothes, instead wear flowing loose clothes that let the body breathe. Skin-tight clothes can increase the pressure on the abdomen and uterus and may cause regurgitation of acid. Loose clothes let the body expand and be comfortable, even if you have overeaten.
Heartburns can interfere with one’s sleep. The burning sensation is quite uncomfortable and doesn’t let one fall into deep slumber. In order to prevent this, women should not consume any meal at least three hours before sleeping. Additionally, one could try to keep the head at an elevated level, the acids will settle due to gravity, keeping heartburn away. Similarly, sleeping on the left side allows the acid to remain back in the stomach. Women should try to sit up straight for an hour at least after their meals, till the food has been digested in the stomach and moved ahead.
8. Chew on Sugar-Free Gum
Heartburn can be quickly resolved by chewing on some sugar-free gum after each meal. Chewing stimulates saliva production, which diminishes the levels of acid in the stomach. Also, one of the key ingredients in gum is bicarbonate which will neutralize the acidic environment. Keep a stack of chewing gum with you at all times for a quick remedy.
9. Consume Papaya
Papaya in any form is known to soothe heartburn. Digestive enzymes in papaya called papain help ease heartburn. Consume papaya extracts or papaya slices after a meal; it not only helps in digestion but also prevents the occurrence of heartburn.
10. Home Remedies
Many women resort to home remedies to relieve themselves of the symptoms of heartburn. The most common remedies include ginger and fennel tea. They work towards discouraging the acid reflux in the gut. Almonds and avocados help as they are alkaline in nature. Herbal teas and similar fluids have also worked effectively. Another age old remedy involves a combination of honey in warm milk that can reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.
Heartburn is an undesired side effect of pregnancy and one must try to prevent it rather than try to cure it after its onset. One should, therefore, follow these tips rigorously to have a more comfortable journey to motherhood.