Surviving Pregnancy Heartburn!
Did you know that up to 80% of pregnant women experience heartburn? Incredibly common, unfortunately pregnancy heartburn can also be incredibly uncomfortable. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at pregnancy heartburn, what causes it, and what you can do to manage it.
What is heartburn?
Heartburn is a common digestive problem that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. It occurs when the stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest and throat. The hormonal changes and physical pressure on the digestive system during pregnancy can make heartburn more frequent and severe.
What Causes Pregnancy Heartburn?
There are several factors that can contribute to pregnancy heartburn, including:
Hormones: During pregnancy, the body produces high levels of the hormone progesterone. This hormone relaxes the muscles in the body, including the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is a muscle that controls the flow of food from the esophagus into the stomach. When the LES is relaxed, stomach acid can flow back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.
Pressure: As the uterus expands during pregnancy, it can put pressure on the stomach and push stomach acid back up into the esophagus.
Diet: Eating spicy, fatty, or acidic foods can trigger heartburn in pregnant women, as can drinking carbonated beverages or caffeine.
Late-night eating: Eating close to bedtime can increase the risk of heartburn because it gives the stomach less time to digest food before lying down.
How to Manage Pregnancy Heartburn
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to manage pregnancy heartburn by reducing its frequency and severity. Here are our favourite tips and tricks:
Eat small, frequent meals: Eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day can help keep the digestive system running smoothly and reduce the risk of heartburn.
Avoid trigger foods: Identify the foods that trigger your heartburn and avoid them as much as possible. Common trigger foods include spicy or fatty foods, citrus fruits, and carbonated beverages.
Drink plenty of water, but not too close to meals: Drinking water is important for keeping the digestive system working properly. However, drinking large amounts of water with meals may increase pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter causing food to back up into your esophagus.
Snack on Pineapple and Papaya: One of the potential reasons for pregnancy heartburn is a slowing down of the digestive system. Eating foods rich in enzymes, including pineapple and papaya, may reduce symptoms of heartburn by supporting the digestive process.
Don't eat late at night: Eating too close to bedtime can increase the risk of heartburn. Try to eat your last meal at least two to three hours before going to bed.
Stay upright after eating: Lying down after eating can increase the risk of heartburn. Try to stay upright for at least 30 minutes after eating to give your stomach time to digest.
Wear loose clothing: Tight clothing, particularly around the waist, can put pressure on the stomach and increase the risk of heartburn. Opt for loose-fitting clothing instead.
Exercise: Try heading outdoors for a gentle 15 minute walk after eating. Walking supports the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine, and improves peristalsis. This, in turn, supports emptying of the stomach and reduces pressure on the stomach making it less likely that food and acid will move backwards into the esophagus contributing to heartburn.
Elevate up the head of your bed: If you find that most of your heartburn is happening at night, consider propping up the head of your bed or using many pillows to keep your head slightly elevated.
Consider supplementation. Supplements can be used to support the digestive process and reduce the acidity of the stomach. Because each person is biochemically unique, it is important to meet with a Nutritionist, Naturopathic Doctor, or consult your main health care provider to determine which supplements are right for you.
Pregnancy heartburn can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. Fortunately, it is common and manageable! By making simple lifestyle changes and avoiding trigger foods, you can reduce the frequency and severity of your heartburn symptoms. If your symptoms are severe or persistent, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about additional treatment options.
This post was written by Ottawa Doula, and Ottawa Prenatal Nutritionist, Julia Davie. Her approach to birth work is heart centered, holistic and inclusive. She is honored to support families in Ottawa, Gatineau, and the surrounding areas.