Heartburn during pregnancy

Heartburn during pregnancy is a harmless condition, but can be distressing for a pregnant woman. It has nothing to do with the heart, but it is a burning sensation that is felt below the breastbone that spreads to the lower end of the throat. Heartburn is also commonly known as acid reflux.

Pregnancy causes changes in the body in which some are physical and some cannot be seen but can be felt by the pregnant woman. Heartburn during pregnancy causes changes in the hormones due to the gradual enlargement of the uterus. During early pregnancy when the uterus is not yet enlarged, hormonal changes can cause heartburn.

Causes

Heartburn

Heartburn during pregnancy causes changes in the hormones due to the gradual enlargement of the uterus.

  • Improper functioning of the cardiac sphincter which is the connection where the esophagus joins the stomach. The cardiac sphincter must function properly to help stop the flow and keep the food in the stomach and if it does not function properly, it will result to heartburn.
  • A condition where part of the stomach pushes into the chest passing through the diaphragm as the baby grows is known as hiatal hernia.
  • An infection caused by H. pylori which can result to bloating, burping, pain and stomach ulcers while pregnant
  • Gastritis can result to severe heartburn during pregnancy
  • Carrying multiple babies can increase the risk for heartburn
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle, overweight, lying down or sleeping after eating a meal, smoking, taking medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin and eating oily and spicy foods.

Symptoms

  • Pain in the throat and difficulty in swallowing
  • Blood in the stool
  • Panic and shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden pain felt in the back that can spread to the shoulders
  • Sweating profusely with chest pain

Treatment

  • During pregnancy, change eating habits such as avoiding beverages and carbonated drinks to help prevent heartburn. Avoid cigarette, chocolates, caffeine as well as acidic, spicy and oily foods.
  • Eat small meals at an interval of 2-3 hours instead of eating 3 large meals. Chew foods properly before swallowing.
  • Avoid sleeping immediately after eating meals.
  • Keep the head slightly elevated when sleeping since it helps in minimizing the return of gastric content into the esophagus.
  • Avoid wearing tight fitting clothes around the abdomen. It is recommended to wear loose fitting clothes that are made of cotton.
  • Drink cold milk at least 1-2 times every day to provide calcium that is needed during pregnancy.
  • Drink fresh fruit juices and water every day.
  • Encourage the individual to eat papaya since it is beneficial to the skin and digestive system as well as help treat heartburn. After eating meals, chew pieces of papaya and the enzymes mix with the digestive system which helps lessen the production of digestive acids found in the stomach.
  • Drink a cup of ginger tea in the morning to help improve the function of the esophagus and minimize heartburn.

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