While pregnancy tests and ultrasounds are the only best and trusted ways to know if you are pregnant, there are other signs and symptoms that a woman should know about. One of the most common and early signs of pregnancy is heartburn. For most of the women, heartburn occurs in the first trimester itself, starting around month two, and this symptom can last up to the whole nine months of pregnancy period. In the initial months of pregnancy, your body produces large amounts of the hormones called progesterone and relaxin, both of which can help in relaxing your muscle tissues throughout your body, including those present in your gastrointestinal tract. This leads to the food sometimes moving even more slowly through your digestive system, resulting in indigestion problems such as getting bloated and gassy feeling to heartburn.
This heartburn during pregnancy can be very discomforting and irritating for you, but it is extremely beneficial for your baby. This digestion takes place slowly as it has to allow for better absorption of nutrients into your bloodstream and through the placenta and into your baby. There are a lot of ways to control and treat heartburn during pregnancy, both medical and natural. Some tips are suggested by experts, while a few are experiences of your ancestors. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Renu Raina Sehgal, Chief & Coordinator Operations - Obs & Gynaecologist, Artemis Hospitals, Gurgaon, about the causes of heartburn during pregnancy and some ways to treat it.
Causes of heartburn during pregnancy
And if you had heartburn before pregnancy, you might be at a higher risk of having in during that period. Heartburn can occur at any point of time in pregnancy, but it is most common during the second and third trimesters. Experts exactly are not sure what causes the smoldering, but they think it can be a three-pronged problem. As per Dr. Renu, here are the main causes of heartburn during pregnancy:
1. Slow digestion
Slow digestion is one of the major causes for heartburn during pregnancy. The whole process and functioning of your digestive system can get weak if you are pregnant. Because of the pregnancy hormone progesterone, the stomach contents stick around longer than normal. As the digestion slows down and the stomach stays fuller for longer hours, the risk of heartburn increases.
2. Hormonal changes
Pregnancy harmone, also called the Progesterone , is the leading culprit behind pregnancy-related heartburn, because it nurtures your womb and the baby inside it. It also by acts as a muscle relaxer. In the case of heartburn, the hormone can loosen the tight muscle (called the lower esophageal valve) that closes your stomach off from your esophagus. When you eat or drink, the muscle opens to let contents into the stomach before it shuts tightly. But the growing progesterone levels which occur during pregnancy can make that muscle slack, which makes the stomach acid to back flow up your esophagus and sometimes even into your throat.
3. Baby growth
Baby growth is another cause behind pregnancy heartburn. As the uterus expands with the growing baby, it asks for more space with some of your other organs. It is a tube that needs to be squeezed and the growing uterus puts pressure on your stomach, which makes it more likely for stomach acids to spill it out, especially if your stomach is full. The morethe uterus grows, the more likely your stomach will get squeezed. This might help you explain why heartburn is more common as you progress through pregnancy.
4. HELLP syndrome
It is important to know that a severe pregnancy complication called HELLP syndrome can trigger heartburn symptoms such as pain or burning in the chest, and pressure or pain in the upper stomach. HELLP syndrome is basically an advanced form of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a common and major pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure. This happens in the 37th week of pregnancy.
How to relieve heartburn during pregnancy?
Heartburn, which is also called gastroesophageal reflux can give the feeling of a fire burning behind your breastbone and that also transfers upto your esophagus, which is the tube connecting your throat to your stomach. These acids can even come upwards to your throat and mouth, and can be very discomforting and can leave bad breath. Pregnancy heartburn is one of the most common symptoms. As per Dr. Renu, here are some ways to relieve heartburn:
1. Eat small meals and slowly
You have to eat small meals and that too slowly. Smaller meals after regular intervals is the key to fight any pregnancy symptoms. Chewing slowly is the first useful step to fight this symptom. The more you chew, the less work your stomach has to do. And, when you eat too quickly, there are chances of swallowing air, which can develop gas pockets in your belly. Even if you are feeling very hungry or in a hurry, then also you should try and eat small bites and chew properly for appropriate digestion.
2. Avoid acidic and spicy foods
Avoiding the trigger foods is also important to prevent and treat heartburn during pregnancy. Acidic and spicy foods develop more stomach acid as compared to other bland food items. You should also minimise the consumption of citrus, tomatoes, onions, garlic, caffeine, chocolate, sodas, and other acidic foods. Many fried or fatty foods can also slow down the digestion process.
3. Restrict smoking and alcohol
Smoking and alcohol should be restricted during pregnancy for not just heartburn but to protect the baby and your health. There are certain chemicals in cigarettes that cause the valve that keeps stomach contents down to relax. This can make the acids and undigested foods to com upwards with mild to severe heartburn. And, alcohol consumption can also cause a lot of problems for your baby in the womb, from physical to mental abnormalities. Alcohol can also relax the valve that keeps stomach contents in the stomach.
4. Have almonds and cold milk
If the reason behind pregnancy heartburn is acidity, then having cold milk is a very effective way to treat. Milk has the ability to absorb acid formation in the stomach and heal other signs of acid reflux. From heartburn to stomach pain, many acidity symptoms can be reduced by drinking milk. You have to take plain cold milk without adding sugar or any preservatives. Almonds are also rich in natural oils and can help in reducing the symptoms of acidity in your stomach. Raw almonds are a good way to treat acid reflux in pregnancy immediately and they are also easily available at home. And, fiber is a necessary element to enhance your digestive system and almonds contain a good amount of fiber, which helps in keeping your digestive system working and healthy even during pregnancy. But, do not soak to almonds before having them.
So, these were the causes of heartburn during pregnancy and its natural treatment by Dr. Renu. You should be aware about heartburn symptoms to identify and know the underlying cause. Therefore, firstly it is very important to diagnose the factor behind it and stop that trigger. Then, there are many pregnancy heartburn relieving foods that can be included in your diet. However, you should surely talk to your doctor/ dietician before consuming some item in routine.
Read more articles on Women's health