Published: 23 May 2023, 10:30 am IST
Pregnancy is a beautiful experience, but it can also bring discomfort at the same time. One of the most common problems faced by pregnant women is heartburn. The burning sensation in the chest and throat can be quite uncomfortable and painful, especially at night or after meals. Heartburn during pregnancy is a frequent issue that affects many expectant women.
Although there is no specific cause of heartburn, certain variables contribute to its growth. First, as the baby grows and takes up more room in the abdomen, it can exert pressure on the stomach, causing acid reflux and heartburn. Apart from that, hormonal changes are a typical cause of heartburn during pregnancy. An increase in progesterone levels can relax the muscles that typically prevent stomach acid from backing up into the oesophagus.
Even spicy food, citrus fruits and juices, chocolate, caffeine, carbonated beverages and fatty or fried foods are also known to provoke heartburn attacks.
What causes heartburn during pregnancy?
1. Hormonal changes
The increased levels of hormones, particularly progesterone, relax the muscles of the digestive tract, including the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This relaxation allows stomach acid to flow back up into the oesophagus, causing heartburn.
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2. Increased pressure on the stomach
As the pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus puts pressure on the stomach, which can push stomach acid upward into the oesophagus. This pressure contributes to the development of heartburn symptoms.
3. Reduced gastric emptying
Pregnancy hormones can also slow down the rate at which the stomach empties its contents. This delay in gastric emptying can result in increased acid production and a longer exposure of the oesophagus to stomach acid, leading to heartburn.
4. Dietary factors
Certain foods and beverages can trigger or worsen heartburn during pregnancy. These include spicy, fatty, or fried foods, citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeine, carbonated drinks and acidic foods.
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5. Physical changes
As the baby grows, the expanding uterus can push the stomach upward, further increasing the likelihood of acid reflux and heartburn.
6. Stress and emotional factors
Stress and anxiety can exacerbate heartburn symptoms. Pregnancy is often accompanied by emotional changes and increased stress levels, which can contribute to the development or worsening of heartburn.
Tips for expecting mothers to avoid heartburn
Lifestyle plays a major role in preventing and managing heartburn during pregnancy. Some tips that can help expecting mothers include:
1. Proper food
Avoid trigger foods that can worsen heartburn symptoms. These may include spicy, fatty, or fried foods, citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and acidic foods. Opt for lighter, less irritating options that are gentle on the stomach.
2. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly
Take enough time while eating and make sure to chew the food thoroughly. Eating slowly can help prevent overeating and improve digestion, reducing the likelihood of heartburn.
Also Read: 5 summer foods a woman must eat during pregnancy
3. Stay upright after meals
Avoid lying down or reclining immediately after eating. Instead, remain in an upright position for at least two to three hours after meals. This helps keep the stomach acids down and reduces the chances of acid reflux.
4. Sleep with the upper body elevated
Elevate the upper part of the body while sleeping by propping up pillows or using a wedge-shaped pillow. This can help prevent stomach acids from flowing back into the oesophagus while sleeping.
5. Wear loose clothes
Tight clothing, especially around the abdomen, can put pressure on the stomach and aggravate heartburn symptoms. It is advised to opt for loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that doesn’t constrict the abdomen.
6. Proper hydration
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to maintain proper hydration. However, avoid drinking large amounts of fluids during mealtime, as this can contribute to feelings of fullness and increase the risk of heartburn.
7. Stress management
Stress and anxiety can worsen heartburn symptoms. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as gentle exercises, deep breathing exercises, meditation, or prenatal yoga to help manage stress levels and promote relaxation.
8. Regular consultation
If heartburn symptoms persist or become severe, it is recommended to consult the healthcare provider for further guidance. They can recommend safe and suitable antacids or other medications to help manage heartburn during pregnancy.
Note: While these tips may help, it is best to talk to your doctor before making changes in your lifestyle.