Getting a Handle on Heartburn
Many women experience heartburn for the very first time in their lives, during pregnancy. Heartburn is usually harmless, but it may lead you to believe something more is wrong. Don’t panic! Here is a look at heartburn, and what you can do to help ease the discomfort.
Heartburn is also known as acid reflux or acid indigestion. Make no mistake, it can sometimes feel very severe – but it is harmless. It starts as a burning sensation around the bottom of your chest, and can burn all the way to the lower portion of your throat. It definitely isn’t fun, but usually isn't anything to worry about. There are various reasons, and one in particular, why heartburn starts to affect you now, which we will discuss more in detail. First, however, is that you may experience heartburn frequently throughout your pregnancy, and it may last until delivery. It is really up in the air as to the level of discomfort you will experience during these episodes. It is also unknown how often you will experience heartburn, if at all. It varies case by case and person to person.
Heartburn occurs because of the hormonal changes and physical changes your body goes through during pregnancy. These changes have both positive and negative outcomes. Heartburn, unfortunately, is one of those negative ones.
The primary cause of heartburn early on in your pregnancy, is because of the hormone progesterone. As your body begins the creation of the placenta, this hormone is produced. In fact, the placenta is directly responsible. It creates the progesterone, which relaxes your uterine muscles. This helps as your uterus grows. However, this process also relaxes another part of your body, specifically the little valve which keeps separate your stomach and your esophagus.
This valve keeps your stomach acid where it belongs: in your stomach. Although, progesterone relaxes this valve to the point that stomach acid, also called gastric acid, can sometimes flow freely up your esophagus. This is where the burning comes in. It is absolutely unpleasant, and depending on the amount of acid or the concentration of the acid, episodes can leave you looking for immediate relief.
Later in your pregnancy, you may still experience the unpleasantness of heartburn, however, it will be for an entirely different reason. As your baby develops and grows, he or she begins to shift your organs, making room for his or her new size. As this occurs, pressure is placed on your stomach, and room becomes less and less. This essentially pushes stomach acid up and out, travelling back up toward your throat – ouch!
There is no way to stop pregnancy heartburn, but there is hope for relief. There are many things you can do to help the symptoms dissipate, and finally, find the relief you have been looking for!
- Eat about six smaller meals throughout the day, instead of three big ones. This will help to ease the stomachs obligation to digest larger portions at one time. Ease it in!
- Drink plenty of water, but not during meals. Eat slowly, and drink primarily after eating. This will help to prevent swelling your stomach too much from the inside.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes. Putting pressure around your waist and on your stomach will hasten the release of stomach acids.
- Let your food digest before laying down flat. Give it about 2-3 hours before stretching out. This may mean eating earlier in the evening before going to bed.
- Sometimes chewing gum after a meal can help prevent acid reflux through saliva production. Saliva is a great weapon to neutralize gastric acids.
- Sleep propped up slightly during the night and even during naps. This will put gravity on your side!
- Take an over the counter antacid. Of course, you will want to check with your doctor for a recommendation as to which brand is safe for you to take.