Have you felt a burning, warm sensation creeping up your throat? Have you also found it hard to sleep at night because you feel like choking; or you suddenly have that sour taste in your mouth? If you have the above symptoms, you might have heartburn. Heartburn is an irritation or burning sensation of the esophagus, which is caused by a reflux of the stomach contents from the stomach. More than half of all pregnant women complain of heartburn during the second and third trimesters. It is primarily because of the changing hormone levels, causing the muscles of the digestive tract to relax. And to add to that, the enlarged uterus can crowd the abdomen, and it tends to push the stomach acids upward.
The most common complaint by pregnant women is a burning feeling in the lower part of the chest, particularly behind the breastbone. Other symptoms include belching, and the sensation of bloating of the stomach. Some women also experience the reflux of food which is characterized by a sour or bitter taste in their throat or mouth. Others may even have stomach pain which is a cause of discomfort. The symptoms also tend to occur after eating large meals, or with activities related to bending or lifting following a meal. In order to manage heartburn at home, here are some helpful tips:
1. Avoid fatty, spicy and fried foods because they seem to cause relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, thus increasing the risk for an individual to have heartburn. Beverages like coffee, carbonated drinks, tea, citrus juices and chocolate flavored drinks may also aggravate heartburn.
2. Elevate the head of your bed. Pillows under the shoulders will work fine for as long as your head and chest are higher than your feet. This will prevent the reflux of acid to the esophagus.
3. Consume frequent small meals throughout the day. Eating three large meals will only predispose one to have heartburn. The last meal of the day should also be eaten two to three hours before bedtime. An empty stomach produces less acid thus decreasing the likelihood of one to have heartburn.
4. Avoid tight fitting clothing. These clothes may only increase the pressure on your stomach and abdomen, thus increasing the risk of heartburn.
5. Wait for at least an hour after a meal before you lie down. If you have to lie down, lie down on your left side. This position will prevent the acid to reflux into the esophagus easily.
6. It is important to consume around 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, but don’t just drink these during meals. Large quantities of fluids can only distend the stomach. This in turn puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter and may cause reflux if it opens inappropriately.
7. Chew a gum after a meal. Research has shown that chewing gum stimulates saliva flow. It contains useful bicarbonate that is helpful in neutralizing the acid that has refluxed into the esophagus.
If your heartburn persists, go and see your doctor. It is important to discuss which medications are safe for you to take during pregnancy. Some over-the-counter antacids contain high levels of sodium or lead. Sodium may cause fluid build-up in body tissues, thus it is not safe to take while you are pregnant. It is also important to discuss medications that may affect iron absorption. Iron is essential for the growing fetus and you need to make sure that it is properly absorbed to support your baby’s growth.
These are simple tips to follow. Pregnancy entails enduring uncomfortable sensations and processes, but heartburn does not necessarily have to be one of them, if you follow these tips carefully.
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