If you are having pregnancy heartburn, you are definitely not alone! In fact, pregnancy heartburn affects 8/10 women at some point during their 9 months and - as you probably know by now - can be pretty unpleasant. It’s been found that around 1/4 of women experience heartburn during pregnancy in their first trimester, 1/3 of women in their second trimester and 3/4 of women in their third trimester. So, whilst some things get better as your pregnancy progresses, pregnancy heartburn, although harmless is unfortunately, likely to get worse.
Thankfully there are some solutions and pregnancy heartburn remedies that have been tried and tested. To help you find pregnancy heartburn relief and put your mind at ease, we’ve put together a brief insight into what pregnancy heartburn actually is and some of the best ways to manage it.
What is pregnancy heartburn?
All heartburn, including heartburn during pregnancy, is caused by acid reflux: Acid from your stomach rises up through your food pipe (oesophagus), irritating it. This happens when a small muscle, located where the food pipe meets the stomach, is weak or too relaxed. Its job is to let food into the stomach and to stop food and acids from coming back out, but if it is weak, the stomach’s contents are able to flow upwards. It can leave you with pain or a burning feeling in your chest and/or throat. It can also cause a hoarse voice, sickness, bloating, an unpleasant taste in your mouth and bad breath – not fun!
Heartburn during pregnancy is particularly common as progesterone – a hormone that relaxes muscles and prepares your body for labour – relaxes that little muscle that keeps acid in your stomach. It can also become more common later in pregnancy; as your baby grows, it can push on your organs, slow down digestion and push stomach acid upwards.
Tips to reduce and relieve pregnancy heartburn
If you’re suffering from pregnancy heartburn, there are some effective tricks and remedies you can try to help reduce it. It may be a struggle, but just remember that it will all be worth it when you meet your little one and become a new parent.
- Look at what and how you eat
Some simple changes to your diet can really help with pregnancy heartburn. Certain foods are more likely to cause heartburn in pregnancy and by avoiding these you can find some relief from the discomfort of heartburn. Looking at your portion sizes, how quickly you eat and when you eat can also help in managing this condition, without the need for heartburn medication.
- Avoid the foods that trigger your acid reflux. Generally, fried foods, chocolate, caffeine, citrus fruits, etc. are found to be common triggers. Just remember that not everyone has the same triggers.
- Eat small but frequent meals as they’re easier to digest. They will put less pressure on your stomach which has less space to expand.
- Liquid foods (soups, smoothies, yoghurt) are also easier to digest.
- Chew slowly and thoroughly.
- Drink water in between meals rather than with them.
- Let gravity work its magic - stand or sit after eating, or try going for a walk
- Avoid eating 2-3 hour before bed.
Think about position and posture
It sounds strange but there are particular positions that are more likely to lead to pregnancy heartburn. As your body changes, parts of your insides are pushed and squeezed to make room for your growing baby and in turn making it more common to have pregnancy heartburn. These suggestions for resting positions will help to alleviate heartburn during your pregnancy.
Lying down and bending over are common triggers, so try to stay upright or have your head elevated as much as possible.
Try raising your head when you sleep, making sure it’s above the level of your stomach to let acid flow downwards. A wedge shaped pillow works wonders for this.
Sleep on your left side to raise your oesophagus above your stomach. You should start sleeping on your left side in your second trimester anyway to improve the flow of blood and nutrients to your baby. A pregnancy pillow can help with this.
Although it’s important to do gentle exercise throughout pregnancy, to keep heartburn at bay, you should avoid exercises that involve lots of bending or lying down
Talk to your doctor about medication for pregnancy heartburn
When you are suffering from heartburn during pregnancy and you have tried all the natural remedies, you may want to try some heartburn medication. This should be done in consultation with your doctor or health professional to ensure it is safe for you and your growing baby.
Some antacids that contain calcium can be used during pregnancy. Just remember that too much calcium can block the absorption of iron so shouldn’t be taken at the same time as iron supplements (if you’ve been advised to take them).
Some heartburn medications can lead to nausea. They should be avoided if you’re at risk of high blood pressure or preeclampsia, so talk to your healthcare professional before taking any.
There are also some medications that can make heartburn worse, such as antidepressants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. But you shouldn’t stop taking prescribed medication without first consulting your doctor.
These suggestions are not only useful for pregnancy heartburn but as a general guide for pregnancy to ensure you are comfortable and relaxed. Choosing the right clothing and making time for some relaxation in the day will be beneficial to you and your baby and may also relieve that pregnancy heartburn too!
Wear loose fitting clothes, particularly in your third trimester – anything to reduce putting extra pressure on your tummy.
Some pregnant women find that relaxation techniques (yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.) can help with reducing symptoms.
Things to look out for
Pregnancy heartburn is very common and many expectant mothers suffer from heartburn at some stage in their pregnancy. It is important to note if the heartburn symptoms do not subside. Make a note of the points here and seek the advice of your health specialist if you are concerned that your pregnancy heartburn is infact something else.
Sometimes heartburn can produce the same symptoms as other complications or digestive problems.
If the pain seems to stay at the top of your tummy, it may be a sign of preeclampsia.
If the pain is more towards the upper right area of your tummy and it’s coupled with sickness, you may have a pregnancy related liver problem.
If you’re suffering with heartburn during pregnancy, then hang in there – it will be worth it once you meet your bundle of joy. If you have any questions or further tips on dealing with heartburn during pregnancy we’d love to hear from you! DM us on instagram @bluebellfamily or contact us here.