Heartburn. It’s a funny word that has actually nothing to do with your heart. And it stops being funny once you get it.
Every second pregnant woman will experience heartburn sooner or later during her pregnancy. It’s also called an indigestion or an acid reflux. It can start as early as the second month and can last until you give birth. Anyone who has it knows it’s uncomfortable and a really unpleasant feeling of burning in your chest.
I’m here to advise you on how to get rid of the heartburn while pregnant.
There are ways to alleviate this pain or, if you’re lucky enough, to make it go away for good.
How does it occur?
Let’s start from explaining the ‘roots’ of the heartburn.
When you’re only couple of weeks pregnant, your body already starts to produce large amounts of the hormones progesterone and relaxin- that leads to relaxing smooth muscle tissues throughout your body, including those responsible for the gastro-intestinal area.
Another reason is that your baby grows especially fast during the 2nd and 3rd trimester so naturally your uterus has to increase in size to accommodate that growth and that means your stomach is under more pressure (so the acids are being pushed back up).
That often results in food moving more slowly through your system which in turn leads to different kinds of indigestion issues (from that bloated, gassy feeling to heartburn). Most commonly, it happens when you’re lying down or right after you had a big meal.
As much as annoying it is for you, it’s actually beneficial for your baby (keep that in mind once you get another hot burn coming!). The slower the digestion, the better absorption of nutrients into your bloodstream; that ultimately means your baby gets the best of what you’re eating.
What can you do to get rid of it?
- Chew on a sugar-free gum. Since it increases the saliva production it can balance out the excess of acid production.
- Eat almonds between your meals. They are tasty, healthy and they can do a great job with fighting those juices in your stomach. It’s a win-win!
- Drink milk. When you can feel the heartburn coming, pour yourself a glass of (could be almond) milk. You can get a better effect when you’ll warm it up (and maybe add a spoon of honey to make it even healthier).
- Drink camomile tea. This plant is well-known for centuries to reduce all kinds of pains, including heartburn.
- Get yourself a papaya. It’s not only high in vitamins but many expecting mums say it really helps with the burning pain.
What else can you do to make it stop?
There are plenty of ways you can reduce the heartburn effects if you only change few things in your daily routine.
- Eat slowly- simple advice not always simple to follow! Never eat in a hurry, chew every bite properly; if you’re still working make sure you use your lunch break wisely.
- Try to eat smaller meals regularly and avoid drinking and eating at the same time. If the excessive fluids get mixed up with too much food, it will upset your stomach; drink water in between meals instead.
- Don’t eat couple of hours before your bedtime. This way you’ll allow your stomach to start digesting before you lie down.
- Stay away from trigger foods. Some foods you’re choosing might be too much for your stomach so if you notice some tendency after certain product, avoid it for now. Some foods that are known to trigger heartburn include spicy food, fried or fatty foods, processed meats, chocolate, caffeine, citrus fruits and acidic foods.
- Wear loose, breathable clothes. Tight clothing around your waist can compress your belly, increasing the pressure and making the burn even worse. If you want to read more about maternity clothing, take a look at my other post.
- Keep yourself in an upright position. During and after eating, it’s important to stay upright for a couple of hours as it takes the pressure of your stomach. Lying down, bending or crouching can make the gastric juices come up.
- Sleep with your head elevated. You can use a couple of pillows or buy a special wedge– this way your upper body stays uplifted (so the gravity wouldn’t let the acids to be brought to the surface). Many women swear by it (including me!). Also, try to stay on your left side when sleeping- if you do it on the right side, it positions your stomach too high (which equals heartburn). To help you stay on the recommended left side, you can consider buying a full size body pillow- personally, it really helped me to avoid the awful burns at nights. To find out more, check out my separate post about pregnancy pillows.
- Watch your weight. Don’t overdo with the ice-cream and biscuit craving! If you gain weight gradually chances are the heartburn will leave you alone. Extra kilos can only make the pain worse as your digestive system gets overloaded. Here you can read about the best foods for pregnancy.
- Just relax. Stress affects all gastric problems, so learning to chill will be only beneficial for you. You can try prenatal yoga, acupuncture or meditation. Mindful hypnobirthing is a great way to combine mediation, visualization and hypnosis (read my other post for a full description).
- Buy some amber jewellery. Although I haven’t tried it myself, there are mums-to-be out there who claim it helped them with easing the burn. Apparently, amber helps to neutralize the body’s acidity. Worth trying (plus, you have an excuse to buy yourself an extra piece of jewellery!).
- Don’t drink or smoke. Pretty obvious isn’t it? Yet, I have to mention it for a piece of mind. Not only will it aggravate your heartburn but is dangerous to your growing baby.
What medication for the heartburn is safe to use during pregnancy?
If you feel like all the things I’ve mentioned didn’t work for you, it’s time to reach for something else.
Medication safe during pregnancy are antacids and alginates. They neutralize stomach acid and relieve the indigestion. Some are available over the counter from a pharmacist like Gaviscon.
*If you’re taking iron supplements and want to take antacids, don’t take them at the same time (they can stop iron from being absorbed by your body). During pregnancy it’s always good to ask your GP for a green light before taking any medicine.
Can the heartburn completely disappear while you’re still pregnant?
Unfortunately, it is hard to completely get rid of the heartburn during your entire pregnancy.
Even if you were one of the lucky ones and indigestion didn’t get you early on in your pregnancy, you don’t have a big chance to escape from the burning sensation around the second or third trimester- it is when your uterus expands the most and forces your stomach upwards.
But hey, I have some good news too! There’s still a small chance you won’t get the heartburn at all- or you’ll only feel it for a short time (but since you landed on this post, I’m assuming you are struggling with it anyway).
For instance, when I was pregnant I was lucky enough not to get any morning sickness at all! And apparently, 75% of pregnant women experience it at least once during pregnancy. So you can’t always trust the stats!
Either way, the heartburn normally disappears completely right after giving birth. And if you follow my advice, I’m sure you can reduce the pain to the minimum so you should barely notice it.
When shall I call the doctor?
Usually pregnancy indigestion can be treated at home but in some cases the heartburn can disturb your lifestyle.
If the heartburn is the reason you can’t sleep in the night, the acids come back soon after taking the medication or you’ve noticed weight loss, stomach pains and difficulty in swallowing, you may have a more serious issue that requires medical help. If you’re diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal acid reflux disease), it will mean you need a special treatment to avoid any further complications.
That’s it for today mamas:)
Hope those tips will turn out to be helpful for you.
Take care of yourself and stay strong!