Managing Heartburn during Pregnancy
05. 11. 2017
“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” ― Tenneva Jordan
Being a mother is all about making sacrifices. We give up precious moments of sleep to make sure school lunches are packed, we miss our favorite TV shows to play one more round of Candy Land, and yes, sometimes we even declare that we’re too full for dessert so that everyone else gets a serving. As mothers, we find fulfillment in taking care of others, but sometimes we need to be reminded to take care of ourselves too.
May 14 marks not just one, but two special occasions: Mother’s Day and the beginning of Women’s Health Week. These annual observances serve as a reminder for women everywhere to make their health a priority.
Approximately 60 percent of adults experience symptoms associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and pregnant women make up a significant part of this population. In fact, more than half of all pregnant women report symptoms of severe heartburn, particularly during the second and third trimesters. The good news is that these digestive symptoms rarely cause complications, and they will likely subside after the baby is born. Unfortunately, painful heartburn and indigestion can make the long months of pregnancy seem even longer.
There are a few reasons that heartburn tends to occur during pregnancy. As your growing baby starts to take up more room in your abdomen, your organs become crowded and press against your stomach. This encourages digestive acids to flow upwards into the esophagus and cause that burning sensation known as heartburn. Heightened levels of progesterone, the hormone that relaxes muscles during pregnancy, can also relax the lower esophageal sphincter, the ring of muscle that acts as a barrier between the stomach and the esophagus.
While you may not be able to avoid pregnancy-related heartburn entirely, there are some precautions you can take to lessen your symptoms:
- Eat smaller portions – Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day will give your food plenty of time to digest and prevent you from feeling too stuffed.
- Stay upright after eating – Sitting upright or standing after meals will allow gravity to work in your favor and prevent digestive juices from refluxing into your esophagus.
- Sleep with your upper body elevated – Use six-inch blocks to elevate the head of your bed or use a wedge-shaped pillow to prop up your upper body when sleeping.
- Avoid common trigger foods - Chocolate, caffeine, peppers, and onions are just a few foods known to cause reflux. Learn which foods trigger your symptoms and do your best to avoid them.
- Take an antacid – Antacids containing calcium are generally safe to take during pregnancy, and the added calcium is beneficial for both the mother and baby!