Managing Pregnancy Heartburn

Soothing The Burn Managing Pregnancy Heartburn

Soothing The Burn: Managing Pregnancy Heartburn

Heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a familiar discomfort for many during pregnancy. This burning sensation, starting in the stomach and rising up to the lower throat, can vary from a mild annoyance to a significant hindrance. Affecting 30-50% of pregnant individuals, with up to 80% experiencing it in the third trimester, heartburn becomes more common as pregnancy progresses.

Understanding Pregnancy Heartburn

The main culprits behind heartburn during pregnancy are hormonal changes and the physical growth of the uterus. Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, causing discomfort. Additionally, as the uterus expands, it places pressure on the stomach, exacerbating the issue. Certain foods and behaviors, such as consuming greasy or spicy foods, caffeine, and lying down after eating, can also trigger heartburn. Let’s talk about managing pregnancy heartburn!

How to Relieve Pregnancy Heartburn

  • Read my blog post about Four Ways to Stop Pregnancy Heartburn.  
  • Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals: This helps prevent overfilling the stomach and reduces pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter.
  • Fluid Intake: Drink fluids between meals rather than with meals to minimize stomach distension.
  • Avoid Trigger Foods: Steer clear of spicy, greasy, and fatty foods. Opt for low-fat or skim milk instead of full-fat dairy products.
  • Mind Your Meal Timing: Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime. Allow several hours between your last meal and going to sleep.
  • Stay Upright After Eating: Avoid lying down immediately after meals to prevent acid reflux to help in managing pregnancy heartburn.
  • Healthy Weight Gain: Aim for appropriate weight gain as advised by your healthcare provider to minimize abdominal pressure.
  • Wear Loose Clothing: Tight clothing around the abdomen can increase pressure and exacerbate heartburn.

When to Call the Midwife

While heartburn is often a benign symptom of pregnancy, certain situations warrant professional advice:

  • Heartburn that persists despite lifestyle and dietary changes.
  • Symptoms that return immediately after medication wears off.
  • Disruption to sleep caused by heartburn.
  • Difficulty swallowing, weight loss, spitting up blood, or black stools, as these could indicate more serious conditions.

For those not finding relief with lifestyle changes alone, antacids containing magnesium hydroxide or magnesium trisilicate are often the next step and are safe for most pregnant individuals. However, antacids should not be taken with iron supplements due to interference with iron absorption. If symptoms persist, medications such as histamine 2-receptor antagonists or proton pump inhibitors may be considered, although their use should be discussed with a healthcare provider due to potential risks.

Heartburn during pregnancy, while common, doesn’t have to diminish your quality of life. With the right strategies, most can find relief from this fiery nuisance. Always consult with your healthcare provider to ensure your approach to managing heartburn is safe for you and your baby.

FAQs about Pregnancy Heartburn

  1. Why do I get heartburn during pregnancy?
    Heartburn during pregnancy is primarily due to hormonal changes, particularly increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, which relax the lower esophageal sphincter. This relaxation allows stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, causing discomfort. Additionally, the growing uterus exerts pressure on the stomach, further contributing to heartburn. Ginger tea can soothe the stomach and alleviate heartburn symptoms. Drinking a small cup of warm ginger tea after meals can help. Ensure it’s made with real ginger and consumed in moderation.
  2. Can my diet affect pregnancy heartburn?
    Yes, your diet plays a significant role in managing pregnancy heartburn. Certain foods can trigger heartburn, such as spicy, greasy, and fatty foods, as well as caffeine. Incorporating alkaline foods like bananas, melons, and almonds into your diet can neutralize stomach acid and reduce heartburn. Avoiding trigger foods and eating smaller, more frequent meals can also help manage symptoms.
  3. Are there any natural remedies to relieve heartburn during pregnancy?
    Several natural remedies can help in managing pregnancy heartburn without the need for medication. One great remedy is Papaya Enzymes! Learn more about natural ways to prevent and manage pregnancy heartburn by reading my blog, 4 Ways to Stop Pregnancy Heartburn.
  4. Can exercise help with pregnancy heartburn?
    Gentle exercise can help improve digestion and reduce heartburn symptoms. However, it’s important to choose the right type of activity. Prenatal yoga, with its focus on gentle stretches and stress reduction, can be particularly beneficial. Avoid exercises that involve lying flat on your back or intense activities that can worsen heartburn.
  5. Is it possible to prevent heartburn during pregnancy with Natural and holistic approaches
    While it might not be possible to prevent heartburn entirely during pregnancy, holistic approaches can significantly reduce its frequency and severity. Maintaining an upright posture, especially after eating, can prevent stomach acid from rising into the esophagus. Elevating the head of your bed by a few inches can also help reduce nighttime heartburn. Wearing loose-fitting clothing can prevent additional pressure on your stomach.
  6. What holistic therapies can support heartburn relief in pregnancy
    Acupuncture and acupressure have been shown to help balance the body’s energy and may reduce symptoms of heartburn during pregnancy. These therapies should be performed by a certified practitioner experienced in treating pregnant individuals. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises can also manage stress, which may exacerbate heartburn symptoms.

Additional Resources on Pregnancy Heartburn

  1. Indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy from the UK National Health Service
  2. Pregnancy and Heartburn from Johns Hopkins Medicine
  3. Heartburn and Pregnancy from the Cleveland Clinic
Jenni Jenkins Sekine Student Midwife

Jenni Jenkins – Sekine is an Oklahoma Student Midwife, Midwives Assistant, Birth & Postpartum Doula, and Child Birth Educator who serves her Central Oklahoma  community. She began her journey as a student midwife in 2022 at the Midwives College of Utah.

To learn more about Jenni, please click here.

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