Heartburn and Pregnancy

Author: Darleth Romana-Bantiles, MD

It feels like it’s on fire but it is not. It also seems to be a heart attack but it really is not. It is heartburn or effect of the movement of acid from the stomach back to the esophagus. This movement is what we call reflux. The food and acid do not cause a stinging sensation when it is in the stomach that is designed to hold it. However, when the gate (lower esophageal sphincter) that is found on the border of the two organs is loose, chances are...reflux happens. It feels like a burning sensation on one’s chest. In truth, it affects the walls on the middle to lower part of the esophagus, leading to the burning sensation.
The most common symptoms of heartburn are pain or burning sensation on the chest and a sour taste in the mouth. They usually occur after a meal and last for a few minutes to hours. Symptoms are also worse at night when one is lying down.
Being overweight, having a hiatal hernia, alcoholic-beverage drinking, smoking, and stress are some factors that further increase the risk for this condition in normal people. Some foods also trigger reflux resulting to heartburn like spicy foods, high-fat foods, tomatoes, garlic, chocolates, soda or caffeine-containing beverages.

Preggy belly acid

Another condition that can further increase the risk for heartburn in pregnancy. Around 40-80% of women who are pregnant experience heartburn. Pregnancy hormone relaxes the gate between the stomach and esophagus. The increase in progesterone during this period also slows down the digestion of food in the stomach and increases the probability of food and acid reflux, thus the heartburn. The growing baby in the womb also adds pressure to the abdominal area, further aggravating acid reflux issues. This is especially true in the second and third trimester of pregnancy.
Avoiding spicy meals and citrus is highly encouraged to avoid reflux episodes. Drinking water with small meals is advisable. Keeping the head elevated by 4-6 inches and refraining from lying down (2-3 hours after eating) will also keep stomach contents where they should be. Sometimes, additional pillows are not enough to raise the head angle and inserting foam wedges may be necessary. That’s why, one of the most important tips in this momentous period in a woman’s life is to keep the stress to a minimum. Relaxation techniques may help a lot.
Pregnancy can be stressful to some women. Experiencing reflux and heartburn can add more to the discomfort and stress.
Be sure to tell your obstetrician if you are experiencing heartburn so you will have a pregnancy-safe management for heartburn.

Sources:

[1] Beckman J. (2019). Heartburn relief tips. Available at: WebMD.com

[2] Smith L. 10 Simple remedies for heartburn relief. Available at: www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/312854.php

This material is copyrighted. Printed with permission from Medicomm Pacific, Inc., publisher of Health.Care magazine and www.TheFilipinoDoctor.com.

Did you know?

  • 73% of people will suffer from both heartburn and indigestion. interchangeably
  • 1 in 5 people suffering from heartburn may experience symptoms every week.