Pregnancy And Heartburn: Causes And Relief Techniques

July 16, 2022

You may have heard of the old wives' tale that heartburn during pregnancy equates to a baby born with a lot of hair. There may be some truth to this according to research by John Hopkins University, however, the exact correlation is unknown. Just over half of all pregnant women will suffer from heartburn during their pregnancies. Progesterone, a hormone that relaxes muscles in pregnancy, also relaxes the stomach valve, which results in more acids being released. This, in addition to the growing uterus, could be causing acid to go upward into the esophagus. The following are a few habits you can adopt to relieve heartburn symptoms.

Wear Loose Clothing

You may want to show off that cute baby bump with a tight-fitting dress or top, but avoid too-tight clothing when you have issues with heartburn. Putting too much pressure on your abdomen, which is already cramped, can cause acids to leak into the esophagus. This is especially true during the third trimester, when the baby is growing at an impressive rate. Consider loose fitting clothing to take some of the pressure off your abdomen. Opting for loose fitting clothing can also help with temperature control, especially if you are pregnant during the warmer months.

Eat Mindfully

Practice mindful eating to relax your body and to avoid eating too quickly. When you eat too fast, you are more likely to experience heartburn and indigestion. When you take the time to slow down and chew your food, you are also less likely to overeat. Try and count to 30 as you chew your food, then swallow. This gives your body the time to digest food at a healthy pace and sends a message to your brain to let you know you are satiated and full.

Eat Small Portions And More Frequently

You may have found it difficult to stomach most food in your first trimester if you suffered from nausea and morning sickness. If you feel better during the second and third trimester, now is not the time to eat without inhibition. Eating large meals can contribute to heartburn and indigestion. Aim for five to six smaller meals daily instead of three large ones. Avoid eating to the point that you are full. During pregnancy, there is less room for your stomach to expand, so the amount you eat normally may be too much for your growing belly. Eating smaller meals can also help with weight gain during pregnancy, ensuring that you maintain a healthy weight for you and baby.

Drink Solids

Liquid-based foods can cause fewer heartburn related problems than solids since they move through the body more quickly and your stomach is able to digest them more easily. Consider having meals in soup, smoothie, shake or pudding form. Just ensure your liquids do not contain any irritating ingredients such as citrus fruits, tomatoes and caffeine. Also, try and include protein and healthy fats, found in nuts and avocados, to make it a balanced meal. Smoothie bowls can also make great liquid meals, especially when healthy granola chunks or chia seeds are added. Just ensure that you chew the solids thoroughly to an almost liquid consistency to help with digestion. If you opt for a solid meal, avoid gulping down your drink and take small sips instead.

Avoid Lying Down After Meals

After having a meal, keep your body upright or do some light exercise. Standing or sitting after having a meal can aid your body in digestion. Consider taking a short walk, which will help to keep food in your stomach, instead of it being pushed up into the esophagus. Whatever form of light exercise you do, just avoid lying down or stretching out on your back until you have digested most of your food.

Take Some Ginger

Ginger in the form of candies, cold beverages or hot tea can be very helpful during all three trimesters. During the first trimester, ginger can help with nausea and vomiting. In the second and third trimesters, ginger can combat heartburn and soothe an upset stomach. Sprinkle a bit of ginger into your smoothies or cereal, and even on top of hot meals. Just ensure that however you consume it, you check the labels to confirm it is real ginger. Although there is not much scientific evidence proving ginger is a cure-all for pregnancy issues, it has been deemed safe to consume during pregnancy.

Avoid Food Triggers

Figure out which foods and drinks worsen your heartburn and rid them from your diet. The triggers will vary for each woman and what foods cause heartburn in one pregnant woman may not cause it in another. The common list of typical food triggers for heartburn includes acidic foods such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, greasy and fried foods, spicy foods, fatty foods, chocolate and carbonated beverages. Caffeine can also be an irritant and should be limited it to one cup of coffee a day or completely eliminate if it triggers heartburn for you. It probably goes without saying, but alcohol is also a common trigger for heartburn and should be avoided during pregnancy.

Avoid Eating Before Bed

Giving your body time to digest its last meal well before bedtime is a smart way to avoid heartburn and indigestion as you sleep. Abstain from all food and drink for at least three hours before you hit the hay. If you have late night cravings, try eating a more protein packed meal at dinner, or have a small yogurt or smoothie. Just make sure to give your stomach time to digest before heading back to sleep.

Keep Your Upper Body Elevated When Sleeping

Elevating your head and chest when you sleep can help curb acid reflux. Put a wedge-shaped pillow underneath your head and chest to slant your body upwards, which allows stomach acid to stay down. Or snuggle up to a pregnancy pillow as you lie on your left side, which requires stomach acids to travel uphill to get to the esophagus. For extra lift, consider putting blocks or books underneath the legs at the head of your bed.

Take An Antacid

If adopting all the above tips do not help, consider an over-the-counter antacid to tackle heartburn head-on. Acids containing calcium or magnesium are generally considered safe for consumption during pregnancy. In fact, the calcium in most antacids such as Tums can benefit both mom and baby. However, avoid taking calcium-based antacids at the same time as your prenatal vitamins since too much calcium can block iron absorption, which is a much-needed mineral during pregnancy. Avoid taking antacids that contain aluminum as an ingredient as these can cause constipation, swelling and be toxic in large doses. In addition to aluminum, look out for aspirin and baking soda in heartburn remedies, which should be avoided during pregnancy. Make sure to let your doctor know if you are taking an excessive amount of antacids, as there may be more effective medications for your heartburn symptoms.

Consider Stronger Medications

When you have exhausted the list above, including trying over-the-counter antacids, it may be time to discuss stronger options with your doctor. Consider an H2 blocker such as Tagamet or Zantac. These drugs work by suppressing acid production in your stomach. Currently, all H2 inhibitors are available without a prescription and are generally considered safe during pregnancy. However, discuss them with your doctor before taking them. A more powerful acid-suppressing class of drugs than H2 blockers is proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prevacid. PPIs are generally considered safe for most people, however, animal testing has shown that the PPI omeprazole may have potentially harmful effects on a developing fetus. Most doctors would suggest exploring H2 blockers before PPIs, depending on the severity of heartburn symptoms. Be sure to discuss all drug options with your doctor before taking any.

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