Pregnancy is not easy. The mother’s body goes through a myriad of physical and hormonal changes. During the second trimester, things may get easier. Morning sickness usually fades and the baby bump is not causing much discomfort yet. However, there is one problem that frequently does occur – digestive issues, including heartburn.
With all the problems that could occur, heartburn sounds minor, but it can be uncomfortable and unhealthy for the mother. Heartburn, or acid reflux, is a form of indigestion caused by acid regurgitation into the esophagus. This happens when the muscular valve between the stomach and esophagus relaxes and lets the acid flow upwards. This valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), and pregnancy hormones can cause it to relax more frequently. Also, as the fetus grows, the uterus applies more pressure to the stomach, which can also cause acids to back up into the esophagus.
The recommended recourse for pregnant women is dietary fixes, which can reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. To ensure healthy babies, pregnant women need to eat healthy, getting plenty of fresh, leafy greens, good protein and lots of water. These will all help to keep the acid levels balanced in your stomach. You want to avoid greasy or spicy foods, onions, caffeine and carbonated beverages, which will increase them.
If heartburn is still occurring, there are a few other things expecting mothers can try before taking a medication:
- Eat smaller meals, more frequently.
- Eat slowly and thoroughly chew each bite.
- Include probiotic-rich foods in your diet.
- Stop eating a few hours before bedtime.
- Use pillows to prop yourself up while sleeping, making it harder for acid to flow up into the esophagus.
If you are still having problems with heartburn, over-the-counter antacids are usually safe. Check with your doctor to be sure, as ones with too much sodium can increase problems with water-retention. In addition, products with magnesium can interfere with contractions, so they are not recommended for use during the third trimester.
If you are having heartburn more than twice a week, consult with your physician. You might have a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD is a chronic disease and affects the LES. Left untreated, GERD can cause damage to the esophagus or even cause cellular changes to the lining. These changes could eventually lead to cancer.
While heartburn is never fun, during pregnancy it is to be expected. However, there are enough things to worry about at this time in your life, so do all you can to minimize its effects. Luckily, by staying fit, eliminating bad habits (smoking, alcoholic beverages) and eating healthy, you can improve your chances of a complication-free pregnancy.