One of the most common symptoms during and after pregnancy is acid reflux/heartburn. Yet, it’s not talked about much although it affects so many women. In fact, it affects around 60% of women, and while it’s more common during pregnancy, it can still linger post-birth. We spoke to Women’s health expert, author of she-ology, and co-founder of URJA Intimates skincare, Dr. Sherry Ross to dive into the topic. Ahead, Dr. Ross discusses the causes, symptoms, treatments, and much more.
What is pregnancy heartburn?
Heartburn of pregnancy causes an intense burning sensation in the chest and throat. It feels like acid is moving up from the stomach through the esophagus on its way to the mouth. It’s a disruptive symptom that makes eating challenging during pregnancy.
Is acid reflux more common during or after pregnancy?
Heartburn, also known as acid indigestion, is often a rite of passage during pregnancy affecting 60% of women. It’s more common during pregnancy. It typically begins in the second trimester and continues throughout the third trimester until the baby is delivered.
The good news is that heartburn during pregnancy usually disappears following childbirth.
Why do so many women experience symptoms like heartburn during pregnancy and post-birth?
Heartburn in pregnancy occurs due to the changing hormone levels which affect the muscles of the digestive tract. The muscular valve at the top of the stomach “relaxes” allowing stomach acids to splash back up or reflux into the esophagus. This action along with an enlarging uterus can crowd the abdomen pushing stomach acid upward resulting in heartburn. The stomach empties much slower during pregnancy as a result of all the hormone changes making heartburn very common.
Are certain women more prone to it than others?
Some women experience heartburn worse than others depending on many factors including their eating habits, foods eaten, sleep position, and use of over-the-counter antacids to help ease the pain of heartburn. Genetic factors, H. pylori, Crohn’s disease, medications, smoking, alcohol use, and structural abnormalities such as a Hiatal Hernia can also be a factor for heartburn sufferers.
Are there any pregnancy heartburn triggers?
Common heartburn triggers include fried or fatty foods which make them harder to digest causing a delayed emptying of the stomach causing heartburn.
Best food to eat include non-fried, grilled, roasted, or baked foods.
How is it best treated/managed?
- Eat several small meals a day instead of three large ones.
- Eat slowly.
- Avoid fried, spicy, or rich foods, or any foods that seem to cause relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter and increase the risk of heartburn.
- Avoid all foods at the heartburn “hit list” which include caffeine, alcohol, coffee, or those not on the list that cause your heartburn symptoms!
- Drink less while eating. Drinking large amounts while eating may increase the risk of acid reflux and heartburn.
- Don’t lie down directly after eating.
- Keep the head of your bed higher than the foot of your bed. Or place pillows under your shoulders to help prevent stomach acids from rising into your chest.
- Medications such as Tums or Maalox help coat the esophagus minimizing the burning sensation and are safe in pregnancy. Other over-the-counter medications that help with the symptoms include Zantac and Pepcid AC. These medications should be taken 30 minutes before each meal and before bedtime for optimal results. Rarely, prescriptive medications are needed to control severe heartburn symptoms. As always consult with your Obstetrician or health care provider.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing. Tight-fitting clothes can increase the pressure on your stomach and abdomen.