If you are one of those jerks who constantly brags about your high spice tolerance, pregnancy-related heartburn will destroy your credibility — and your ability to consume anything even remotely hot. Heartburn is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms, and it can be unnerving if you have never felt the sensation before. There are some things you can do to help avoid heartburn, but unfortunately, it comes with the territory.
What is heartburn and what causes it?
Heartburn is a feeling of burning or pain in the throat and chest. It’s not actually caused by the heart — stomach acids leaking into the esophagus cause this unpleasant feeling. Why are stomach acids leaking into your esophagus in the first place? Pregnancy hormones relax the valve between your stomach and esophagus; when this valve is relaxed, stomach acids can get in and irritate the lining of your esophagus. As your pregnancy progresses and your uterus expands, it crowds your stomach, which leads to more acid entering the esophagus. It’s a vicious and painful cycle and it destroys your soul a little bit.
Additionally, as a result of hormones relaxing your muscles, your gastrointestinal tract can also slow down, which may lead to indigestion problems. It’s not unusual to be farting, belching, and experiencing a burning sensation in your chest all at once. That’s the trifecta, folks.
How can I prevent or safely treat heartburn during pregnancy?
It might be difficult to prevent heartburn during pregnancy, but there are some things you can do to try and alleviate that awful feeling. Try switching up your eating pattern and eat small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals. Drink liquids between meals instead of with them, and don’t lie down right after meals. And yes, avoid spicy or greasy foods and chocolate. We know with cravings this is nearly impossible, but it’s the best way to reduce the chance of heartburn.
There are some foods and beverages you can have that might help neutralize the acids. Eating almonds and drinking milk have been known to calm the burning feeling. You can also have yogurt when you feel symptoms starting. Papaya, which is rich in vitamin A and C, can also help relieve heartburn for some.
Over-the-counter remedies like Tums or Maalox can be used in moderation, but talk to your doctor first. Some of these products contain magnesium, which should be avoided during the third trimester of pregnancy.
When should I be concerned?
If heartburn is persistent and comes with other symptoms such as coughing, difficulty swallowing, or black stool, see a doctor. You might be diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which requires more significant treatment.
Anytime you feel pressure on your chest that concerns you, reach out to your doctor. It might just be heartburn, but it doesn’t hurt to get checked out.
Written by Patricia Grisafi.