A Gift of Heartburn: What does heartburn feel like when pregnant?
Oh, heartburn – that burning sensation that seems to rise up from the depths of your being only to skip upwards for a quick nap under your breastbone before crawling up your throat to further annoy you. More than half of pregnant women report symptoms of severe heartburn, especially in their third trimester of pregnancy. Even women never before plagued with this condition may suddenly notice the onset of this mysterious burning in their chest and throat as their pregnancy progresses.
During pregnancy, the placenta produces progesterone, a busy hormone that works to relax the smooth muscles of the uterus. But progesterone also relaxes the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach, letting gastric acids wash back up the esophagus. Progesterone decreases the contractions of the stomach, slowing down the movement of the food through the digestive tract. And to top it off, as the uterus enlarges, it may push stomach acids upward. The end result of these body changes often adds up to a bad case of heartburn that you just can’t seem to shake.
But there are a few things you can do to help calm the suffering of heartburn.
- Avoid large meals. Instead of loading up your plate at meal times, try dishing up smaller, more frequent feedings during the day. But instead of nibbling on empty calories all day long, make the most of your meals. Try nutrient rich foods like yogurt and fruit, half cheese or meat sandwiches, a pasta bowl, a stuffed pita pocket, cheese and whole wheat crackers, soup, a baked potato, or a grilled chicken salad for a small meal solution.
- Take time at your meals. Avoid stress, eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly.
- Avoid foods that cause you gastric distress. Take note of the foods that bother you. You can even keep a food diary to notice trends of foods that appear to be related to symptoms of heartburn. Typical gastric irritants that might be good to avoid if you are experiencing heartburn include alcohol (which should be avoided during pregnancy anyway), caffeine (caffeinated coffee, tea and sodas), chocolate, and highly spiced or seasoned foods. Other foods that may aggravate your symptoms include peppers, onions, garlic, mint, carbonated beverages, fatty foods, and highly acidic foods like citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, and vinegar.
- Avoid drinking large amounts of fluids at meal times, instead try to drink most of your fluids between meals. (Heartburn aside, it’s important to consume adequate fluids during pregnancy, at least 8 cups per day.)
- Avoid lying down immediately after eating. Try to wait at least one hour before lying down after eating and try to eat your last meal at least three hours before bedtime.
- Elevate your head while sleeping. Try propping up several pillows behind your head and shoulders to achieve this effect.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict your stomach.
If heartburn continues to plague your pregnancy, check with your health care provider for further treatment or medication. Over the counter antacids and heartburn relievers may be of benefit, if approved by your physician.
The information contained in or made available through This Site cannot replace or substitute for the services of trained professionals in the medical field. We do not recommend any treatment, drug, food or supplement. You should regularly consult a doctor in all matters relating to physical or mental health, particularly concerning any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.