Pregnancy & Heartburn. Its a fact up to 50% of women are likely to experience heartburn at some point in their pregnancies. You may not be able to avoid it or relieve it completely during pregnancy, but there are ways to control it.
What exactly is heartburn?
Heartburn actually has nothing to do with your heart. The burning pain, associated with heartburn, results when stomach acid rises up into your oesophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach). You may hear it referred to by its medical name, “gastroesophageal reflux”, just “reflux”, GERD or Functional Dyspepsia (FD).
What causes heartburn during pregnancy?
There is a muscle, called the “lower esophageal sphincter,” located between your stomach and esophagus. This muscle relaxes when you eat or drink something so that the food/drink gets to your stomach.
However, if the muscle relaxes and does not stay closed, then symptoms of heartburn result.
The two main reasons for heartburn during pregnancy are:
1. Relaxin plays a role in relaxing muscles & connective tissues throughout your body. This includes the lower esophageal sphincter.
2. The growing uterus and eventually the space the child takes up in your belly pushes and displaces other organs in your abdomen, including the stomach and its contents.
What can you do to reduce heartburn and its effects?
1.Try some natural pain relief
Acupuncture should be considered to try and alleviate the symptomatic pain from heartburn, as it can influence Gastro-intestinal motility. In Chinese Medicine we talk about “Strengthening the Spleen” (or the digestive energy) and “Clearing Stomach & Liver Fire” (the burning sensation) as treatment strategies. Applying acupuncture can help relax the digestive tract in the case of nausea, morning sickness & heartburn reflux and relieve the pain in the chest.
2. Eat smaller, more frequent meals
Most pregnant women get accustomed to doing this anyway, especially as the pregnancy continues and the baby crowds your abdominal organs.
3. Don’t eat or drink just before you lie down
You want to use gravity to your advantage to help keep things in your stomach, where they should be.
It is preferable that you do not eat for about two hours before you plan to go to sleep.
4. Make adjustments to your sleeping surface
Again, you are using gravity to help keep things down.
A second option is to elevate the head of your bed. You can do this by putting phone books or bricks under the legs of the head of your bed. Alternatively, you can buy a foam bed wedge that you place under your head down to your waist, and sleep on that. That will keep you propped up and promote a better night’s rest, undisturbed.
5. Try sleeping on your left side instead of your right side
This tip is based on your anatomy and the design of the human body, and can be helpful for some heartburn sufferers.
6. Ensure you are wearing loose & comfortable maternity clothing
You want to avoid anything restrictive or tight around your waist that might cause increased pressure and chance for reflux. Relax about what you look like, as comfort trumps everything during Pregnancy.
7. Avoid particular foods and drinks
Spicy foods and carbonated beverages are known to play a role in heartburn. Caffeine, citrus, and pickled foods are common aggravators. Observe your body’s reaction to foods – are there other foods that can set you off? Remember it’s not one size fits all. Take into account any pre-existsing food intolerances.
8. Speak to your doctor
If you try these tips, and you are still not getting full relief, be sure to talk to your doctor. Some antacids may be able to be used, but you should get medical advice first as to which ones are recommended during pregnancy.
Heartburn is one the annoyances of pregnancy. Now that you know what causes it, consider options to control or relieve it. Pregnancy certainly can be uncomfortable, but you want to do what you can to minimize those discomforts.
For questions about Reflux, Heartburn during Pregnancy & Acupuncture, lets connect via email. You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org