Heartburn is a regular symptom and occurrence in pregnant women. It most often occurs during the third trimester when the growing uterus places more pressure on the stomach. Despite its name, heartburn really doesn’t have anything to do with the heart.
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Its symptoms and rate of occurrence will vary from each woman based on there personal health and condition. And though it may be uncomfortable at times, it’s important to be aware that it’s normal and that just being pregnant itself will increase your risk of heartburn.
Although it is not life-threatening to you and your unborn baby, there are a few things you can do to ease its symptoms.
What is Heartburn?
Heartburn is an irritation of the oesophagus caused by stomach acid and can happen during all trimesters of pregnancy. During the first trimester, your oesophagus pushes food slowly into the stomach, and the stomach may take longer to empty.
This will give your body more time to absorb nutrients for the fetus, however, can result in heartburn. During the third trimester, the growth of the baby will push your stomach out of its normal position. When this occurs, heartburn is also likely to occur.
Symptoms of heartburn may vary from each woman, and each may not experience the same. Below is a list of heartburn symptoms that women have reported:
- A burning feeling in the chest just behind the sternum after eating. The sensation can last a few minutes up to several hours
- Chest pain when moving around, or laying down
- Chronic cough
- Wheezing or asthma-like symptoms
- Difficulty catching breath
- Burning sensation in the throat
Preventing and Relieving Heartburn During Pregnancy
Heartburn during pregnancy should not give you too much reason to panic; however, it is always a good idea to report it to your doctor during your routine check-up. However, certain lifestyle adjustments are safe enough for expecting mothers to change, try and adopt in order to prevent, relieve, and control heartburn during pregnancy.
Though some may be more effective for certain women, doing trial and error on the below is a safe approach. Here are a few tips you that may help with heartburn.
- Eat Smaller Meals – Eat smaller portions, and increase meals. Also, be sure to eat slowly and chew. By going gentle with food, your stomach will be given more time to digest it and minimise the risk of heartburn.
- Avoid Eating Close to Bedtime – Your stomach is better at digesting foods when your body is upright. By laying down when food in your stomach has not been fully processed in the digestive system, may cause you heartburn. Avoid laying down or going to bed right after meals. Allow for a few hours in between.
- Avoid Spicy Foods – Spicy foods and chilli are notorious for causing heartburn. They contain a compound called capsaicin, which can slow down the rate of digestion, making food sit in your stomach longer. It may also irritate the oesophagus and worsen the condition of heartburn.
- Wear Loose Clothes as Opposed to Tight-Fitting – wearing clothes that give you a relaxed fit can help your body to move around more easily and without restriction, as opposed to tight-fitting clothes that may apply pressure to your chest and aggregate symptoms of heartburn.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight – Maintaining a healthy weight by being physically active and having a healthy diet during your pregnancy can help to decrease symptoms of heartburn.
Other home remedies to help relieve heartburn include:
- Sleep on your left side as lying on your right side may position your stomach higher than your oesophagus and cause heartburn
- Chewing a piece of gum after meals
- Eating yoghurt or drinking milk when symptoms of heartburn start to flair up
- Drink chamomile tea or warm water with honey
If natural remedies aren’t working as effectively as you’d like or need to step up your efforts in managing heartburn, speak with your doctor about potential medication.
Over the counter medications for managing heartburn are available; however it is best to speak with your personal health doctor during regular check-ups to consult what medication is most suitable for you as every woman responds to certain medications differently.
When to See a Doctor?
If heartburn is occurring way too often, its symptoms are hard to cope with, speak with your doctor immediately. If you notice:
- Drastic weight loss
- Black stool
- Persistent chronic cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling ill
- Difficulty swallowing
Please speak with your doctor immediately as it may be a more severe underlying health complication that needs to be addressed. Your doctor will be able to provide you with the appropriate medication and advice on how to manage it based on your health condition.
Head over to the Okadoc app to immediately book an appointment with your health practitioner.
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