heartburn-during-pregnancy

Heartburn During Pregnancy

Heartburn during pregnancy occurs to many would be moms. Heartburn in the pregnancy period is one the most uncomfortable feeling. In pregnancy, morning sickness, swollen ankles and enlarging breasts are common. Sounds silly, yet heartburn during pregnancy is a problem that is difficult to deal with!

What Is Heartburn During Pregnancy?

With all common symptoms of pregnancy, a burning sensation in the throat is bothersome. This burning sensation in the throat is nothing, but a heartburn.

This heartburn during pregnancy (also known as GERD) can last from few minutes to several hours. Additionally patients may also have a bitter or sour taste in the mouth, feeling bloated abdomen, belching a lot, chest pain after lying down, cough frequently, asthma like symptoms, etc.

Heartburn During Pregnancy Causes

As according to NCBI study reports, up to 45% of pregnant woman experience heartburn during pregnancy. If you have heartburn before pregnancy you are more likely to get heartburn during pregnancy. According to the report of one study,

Heartburn is more common during second or third trimester of pregnancy, but it can also occur at any time during pregnancy.

Experts found three major causes of heartburn during pregnancy, although study is still going on in this field to determine additional factors that trigger heartburn during pregnancy.

Hormone

Progesterone (also known as pregnancy hormone) is one of the main cause of heartburn during pregnancy. Progesterone is a muscle relaxer and it causes relaxation of lower esophageal sphincter (LES) because lower esophageal sphincter is made up of muscles.

In normal non pregnant individual this LES becomes tight after food enters in the stomach from the food pipe esophagus, so no stomach content goes back to the food pipe.

After food enters the stomach from the food pipe, then if LES does not tight properly, stomach contents backs up in food pipe. So eventually it causes a burning sensation in the throat known as heartburn.

Growing Baby

During pregnancy, uterus expands with the growing baby. This expanding uterus gives pressure to the adjacent organs. As a result, stomach is pressed by the enlarging uterus and stomach contents especially stomach acid squeezes out into the food pipe causing heartburn.

Especially it is more common when the stomach is full. With time, as uterus enlarges during pregnancy, it gives more pressure to the stomach, so chances of getting heartburn also increases with progression of pregnancy.

Slower Digestion

Progesterone hormone slows down the digestion process. That is why, stomach contents (foods, liquids, stomach acid, etc.) remain in the stomach for a longer time.

Chances of getting heartburn is increased because more time stomach contents remain in the stomach, there is more chance of back up of stomach contents into the food pipe esophagus. As a result, heartburn during pregnancy is common.

Heartburn During Pregnancy Prevention

Heartburn during pregnancy is bothersome, especially in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. The following measures can help you to get relief from heartburn during pregnancy.

  • Foods that increases the likelihood of heartburn are tomatoes, onion, garlic, coffee, citrus food, fatty meal, etc. You need to avoid these foods during pregnancy to avoid heartburn.
  • Instead of taking 2 or 3 major meals, eat small meals throughout the day, so it will give better digestion and fullness of stomach will also be less. So chances of getting heartburn during pregnancy will be less.
  • Avoid lying down after taking meals. It is better not to lie down for at least three hours after taking meals.
  • Avoid taking snack late at night.
  • Avoid tight fitting clothes as it gives pressure to the stomach, so stomach content squeeze out more easily into the food pipe causing heartburn.
  • Elevating head of bed is very helpful when heartburn occurs especially at night.
  • Avoid taking caffeinated drink and alcohol because these cause relaxation of LES. So chances of stomach acid back up into the food pipe increases, as a result heartburn also increases.
  • Avoid smoking during pregnancy. We all know smoking has many detrimental effects on health, it also causes heartburn during pregnancy because smoking causes relaxation of the muscular valve lower esophageal sphincter (LES) at the junction where esophagus (food pipe) meets the stomach. So stomach contents can go back to the food pipe from the stomach causing heartburn.
  • Good sleep helps to reduce occurrence of heartburn. Getting good sleep is easy, specially during pregnancy.
  • Healthy lifestyle with less stress causes less chance of getting heartburn.
  • During eating food, drink less because drinking more during eating increases the chances of heartburn. You may drink in between meals. In fact staying hydrated is always beneficial to get relief from heartburn.
  • There are several home remedies of heartburn that you can try. All the home remedies are 100% safe to continue even during pregnancy.

Heartburn During Pregnancy Don’ts

  • When all of the above measures fail to give relief from heartburn then over- the – counter medication such as chewable antacids (which neutralizes the stomach acid) one can take during pregnancy. But before taking any medicine please consult with your doctor.

Please note, all over- the- counter medicine is not safe to take during pregnancy (such as antacid containing aspirin, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium trisillicate, etc. are not safe during pregnancy). So you should always consult with your doctor before taking any medicine.

  • Acupuncture is not recommended to get relief from heartburn during pregnancy. It has a potential risk of miscarriage or premature delivery.

After the delivery, heartburn usually goes away on its own. So it is not a matter of concern. But if it becomes severe during pregnancy then a medical consultation is needed.

Heartburn During Pregnancy – When To Call A Doctor

Heartburn during pregnancy is usually manageable. If you feel the need, you should consult with your doctor any time during pregnancy. But sometimes, you need to consult with the doctor without a delay such as

1. When normal lifestyle changes does not improve symptoms of heartburn and it is worsening with time.

2. When you are taking over-the-counter drugs to get relief from heartburn. You need to consult with your doctor because many over-the-counter drugs are harmful for you during pregnancy and for your baby in your womb.

3. When you have difficulty in swallowing, hoarseness, vomiting

4. When you have difficulty in sleeping due to heartburn

5. When it is hampering your normal well being

6. When chest pain radiating in your jaw or arm

7. When you have breathing difficulty

8. When you have unconsciousness and other severe symptoms.

Healthy pregnancy is always wanted. So, take care yourself during pregnancy. Stay healthy and happy.

Sources

  1. Lishman’s Organic PsychiatryA Textbook of Neuropsychiatry
  2. Goldman-Cecil Medicine
  3. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine 20th edition
  4. Davidson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine 23rd edition
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