As a pregnant woman, you often look forward to lying down and having a well-earned rest. Not long into your pregnancy though you may find that lying down comes with an added bonus: heartburn! Heartburn is very common during pregnancy and affects some women in later trimesters but can spring up early on for others. The good news is that dietary and lifestyle changes can help relieve heartburn and there are medical treatments available.
What it is
Heartburn (or reflux) is a condition where there is a backflow of gastric contents into the oesophagus, causing a burning sensation and pain behind the breastbone. About 80% of pregnant women experience heartburn.
In pregnancy, heartburn may be due to high levels of pregnancy hormones that can relax the oesophageal sphincter. It may also be due to the increasing weight of the baby. The growing baby can increase pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter(LES) and make it relax. The increasing size of the baby can also delay the routine emptying of the stomach.
The following are risk factors of heartburn in pregnancy:
- Having been pregnant before
- Carrying a multiple pregnancy
- Being in your third trimester
- Eating a large or heavy meal
- Eating high-fat, acidic, and spicy foods
- Eating acidic foods and beverages like tomato, onion, citrus fruits, chocolate, etc.
- Drinking alcohol and coffee
- Lying down, sleeping, or bending over immediately or soon after eating
- Doing physical activity soon after eating
Prevention and Management
Heartburn can be really uncomfortable
You can prevent heartburn and relieve mild symptoms if you:
- Eat smaller meals frequently
- Avoid lying down or going to bed within 2-3 hours after eating
- Avoid fatty and spicy foods
- Avoid foods and beverages like alcohol, coffee, chocolate, peppermint, tomato and tomato juice, citrus fruits and their juices, onions, etc.
- Drink fluids in between meals and not during.
- Quit smoking
- Avoid medications such as anticholinergics, antidepressants, calcium channel antagonists, NSAIDs, etc.
- Chew gum
- Sleep on your side
- Elevate the head of your bed by 10-15cm
For moderate to severe symptoms, your healthcare provider may prescribe medications such as antacids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and H2- receptor blockers.
You can make an appointment with Dr Kenny on 07 3188 5000.
This article is written to be informative and does not substitute seeking a professional consultation from a medical professional.