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Easing Indigestion & Heartburn in Pregnancy

by Katlyn Joy
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Easing Indigestion & Heartburn in Pregnancy

One of the most common pregnancy complaints is indigestion, heartburn or acid reflux. Heartburn is caused by digested foods which include acids, pushing back up from your stomach into your esophagus or the tube which connects your throat and stomach. Heartburn causes a burning sensation, sour taste and possibly a sensation that you may vomit.

A circular valve at the bottom of the esophagus allows food to flow from your throat to your stomach, but during heartburn episodes that valve relaxes and allows digested food and acids to escape back up into the esophagus. Pregnancy hormones relax the muscles in your digestive system which can allow that back up to occur. Later in pregnancy food may get pushed back up by an expanding uterus. Pregnancy hormones also slow digestion which increases the chances of developing heartburn and acid reflux.

Indigestion is simply an upset tummy, characterized as bloating, gassiness and queasiness. It is caused by the same chain of events as heartburn and treatment and prevention are the same.

Heartburn may start at the beginning of pregnancy but is likely to become most problematic during the second and third trimesters, however when the combination of increased weight, cramped insides and pregnancy hormones are at their height.

Heartburn and indigestion can make it difficult to eat at times, and are often liable to disrupt sleep, even a partner's! Ask a pregnant woman's husband about awaking to hear an epic belch at 2 am, and you'll understand.

While it is not a serious condition, it can be terribly annoying and uncomfortable. There are many lifestyle options to prevent indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy.

  • Eat small, frequent meals over large and fewer ones.
  • Avoid lying down immediately after eating. Instead, wait at least an hour and stay propped up a little.
  • Drink fewer fluids during meals.
  • Avoid bending after eating.
  • Avoid gaining more weight than is recommended for your pregnant frame. Excess weight adds to indigestion concerns.
  • Try to keep your head elevated higher than your feet when sleeping.
  • Eat slowly. Rushing increases the instance of heartburn.

Watch your diet and observe what foods are most likely to trigger indigestion. Common culprits include spicy foods, fatty foods, caffeine, carbonated drinks, chocolate, tomato sauce and citrus products. However, you may notice other trigger foods so pay attention and heed your own body's reactions.

- Avoid tobacco and alcohol. Of course, these are both huge no-nos during pregnancy anyway.

- Wear loose fitting clothing, and especially nothing that binds at the waist.

- Eat at least 3 hours before bedtime.

Treatment Options

If you try all the preventative measures and still have a bloated tummy or burning pain in your throat and tummy, try a little milk with a tablespoon of honey or some yogurt.

Discuss medication options should these lifestyle methods prove ineffective. While most doctors approve of certain antacids, you should also get approval from your caregiver.

Use antacids that contain aluminum, calcium, or magnesium. However, avoid magnesium during the final trimester as it can interfere with labor contractions.

Avoid antacids with sodium bicarbonate as it can lead to a condition causing fluid overload in mother and child.

Some research has been done on antacids Tagamet, Zantac and Prevacid and appears safe for pregnant women, although the research is still somewhat limited. Again, only take medications for heartburn under a doctor's advice. Do not take more than the advised amount of medication and do not administer more often than indicated either. While most medications are probably safe for pregnant mothers and their fetuses, care should be taken.


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