Along with nausea, swollen ankles, back aches and constipation, heartburn is one of the most common pregnancy complaints. There is no magic cure for pregnancy-related heartburn, but there are things you can do to reduce its impact.
What is heartburn?
Heartburn occurs when the content of your stomach passes back up into your oesophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. Heartburn can present itself as a burning sensation in your throat, or an unpleasantly hot, sour, acidic or salty-tasting fluid. You may feel a tightening or burning feeling in your chest after eating or when you’re bending over or lying down. Or you may feel like your food is stuck in your chest or throat.
Why do pregnant women get heartburn more than other people?
A ring of muscle at the end of your oesophagus, called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS), acts like a valve to let food pass into your stomach. During pregnancy, your body releases a muscle-relaxing hormone, progesterone, that will eventually help you handle childbirth. This same hormone causes the LOS to relax, allowing food and stomach acids back up into the oesophagus. The increasing size of your uterus also puts pressure on your abdomen and pushes stomach acids upwards, making the problem worse.
Is it possible to avoid heartburn?
Some women will not experience heartburn at all during pregnancy. If you’re not one of the lucky ones, here are some simple things you can do to make heartburn less of a problem.
- Try smaller, slower meals As your baby grows, your stomach capacity decreases. Big meals will fill your stomach quickly, putting pressure on your LOS, so eat smaller meals and try to eat them slowly, too.
- Avoid problem foods Spicy foods, fatty foods, citrus foods and juices, alcohol and caffeine can all trigger an episode of heartburn.
- Eat early Many pregnant women suffer from heartburn at night, resulting in poor sleep. Schedule meals so that you finish eating at least two to three hours before bedtime, to allow your stomach plenty of time to digest everything.
- Elevate your upper body Keep the head of your bed higher than the foot of your bed by placing some books underneath your bedhead, or place a couple of pillows underneath your shoulders. This will make it less likely for stomach acids to travel back into your oesophagus.
- Chew gum Try chewing a piece of gum after each meal. The chewing action stimulates the production of saliva and saliva can help neutralise stomach acids.
LIVE WELL RECOMMENDS
Gaviscon Double Strength Formula
Gaviscon liquid provides fast, effective relief from heartburn and stomach indigestion. In a clinical study by Lindow 2003, 9 out of 10 women found Gaviscon Double Strength liquid effective for heartburn treatment. Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist see your healthcare professional.