Sadly, heartburn is a likely occurrence during pregnancy.
Up to eight out of ten pregnant women develop heartburn at some point over the course of the nine months.
For some, it might be an entirely new experience. The condition is essentially harmless, but it is uncomfortable, and can be painful.
Heartburn is a burning sensation that extends from the bottom of your breastbone up to the lower throat.
It happens when acid from your stomach comes up through the gullet (oesophagus). It’s an acid reflux, essentially, and leaves a sour, bitter taste in the mouth.
Why heartburn in pregnancy?
It’s down to hormonal and physical changes in your body. Temporary symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux are down to your body changing, adapting, and undergoing stress.
Also during pregnancy, the body sees an increase in progesterone, a hormone that helps relax the smooth muscles of the womb.
Experts think this in turn relaxes the valve that separates the stomach from the gullet, so gastric acids get through more readily.
Progesterone also slows down the wave-like contractions of your stomach, making your digestion sluggish, according to Babycentre.
In later pregnancy, as the baby grows, the intestines and stomach are pushing upwards. This slows digestion and forces acids up.
How common is heartburn
Very. Sorry to say. It’s more common in mid to late pregnancy.
About a third of pregnant women experience heartburn as early as the first trimester, rising to two-thirds by the third trimester.
It’s nothing to worry about and the symptoms will disappear once the baby is born. Still, it’s not very nice.
Getting rid of heartburn
The main triggers for heartburn are eating, lying down, and bending over. If you can work out which activities make your heartburn worse, avoid them. Don’t stop eating, obviously. Or going to bed.
Although you may not be able to eliminate heartburn entirely, here are some tips to help:
- Choose food and drink that’s easy to digest. Rich, high-fat and spicy foods might prove unhelpful. Likewise chocolate, citrus fruits, alcohol, and coffee.
- Eat little and often.
- If you smoke, try to stop. It also relaxes the valve between your stomach and gullet.
- Bending over and slumping can make heartburn worse or bring it on.
- If your heartburn is worse at night, try not to eat or drink anything but water in the three hours before bed.
When you’re in bed, try an extra pillow too. Gravity helps keep the acid down. If you can, avoid propping yourself up with something.
Certain medicines for other conditions can make heartburn worse. Studies suggest antidepressants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do so. Check with your GP if you’re concerned about your medication.
Also worth trying is antacid or alginate, both of which provide relief. Check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist first.
Some remedies – like any – have side effects. You’ll be made aware of these. Some will be unsuitable for women who have existing conditions.
Could heartburn be something else?
It all depends. You need to listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, visit your GP and get checked out.
Chances are it’ll be heartburn, and you’ll just need to stop eating so much curry! (Obviously tuck in as soon as your baby’s born).
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