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Pregnancy Heartburn

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Pregnancy is a perfect prelude for the beginning of a beautiful chapter in a woman's life. There are several things apart from joy, excitement and physical changes, that a woman needs to deal with, during her pregnancy. Pregnancy heartburn is one of the most common discomforts that women suffer from. Read on to find out more about pregnancy heartburn, its causes and recommended holistic approach towards controlling and relieving it.


What is Pregnancy Heartburn?

Pregnancy heartburn usually refers to the burning sensation experienced in the throat and chest area by a pregnant woman. It is a symptom of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) at the time of pregnancy, or acid reflux as it is commonly known.


It is very important to note that, though pregnancy heartburn can be very discomforting to the individual, it does not affect the progress of the pregnancy in any way. And though the name suggests heartburn, it does not directly involve the heart; it is merely called so because the pain or the burning sensation gets localized in the chest area.


Symptoms of pregnancy heartburn

The levels of discomfort vary from individual to individual. Some expectant mothers complain of a feeling of inflammation in their chest area or indigestion and gas. At times the pain originates in the chest and can be felt in the throat and the neck area, which occurs mostly after ingesting food. Sore throat and hoarseness are some other common symptoms, In severe cases, the pregnant woman finds difficulty in swallowing food or lying down straight.


Causes of pregnancy heartburn


Hormonal changes: The placenta produces several hormones to perform conducive functions during pregnancy. However these excessive secretions have some undesired effect on the digestive system.


The hormones, Progesterone, Estrogen and Relaxin tend to soften the ligaments present in the esophageal Sphincter, making it pliable and allowing the stomach acids to get back into the larynx and esophagus. This results in pregnancy heartburn. Because normally, during digestion, the esophageal sphincter acts like a valve; it opens only to allow the food to pass into the stomach and prevents the acidic content from coming back into the larynx.


The high levels of hormones also affect the time taken to complete the digestion process. The muscular contractions which help move food in the stomach are slowed down as a side effect of the hormone secretion. This results in slower digestion and increased fermentation time, leading to gas, indigestion and heart burn.


Physical Changes: Apart from the hormonal changes, the physical changes also contribute to heartburn. As the pregnancy progresses, the growth of the baby in the womb, tends to exert more pressure on the organs, causing the organs to be pushed up further. This enables the reflux of acid causing pregnancy heartburn.


When does Pregnancy Heartburn occur?

The occurrence usually varies from individual to individual. It can commence anytime during the pregnancy, some women experience it in the first trimester, most of them experience it in the latter stages of pregnancy corresponding to the growth of the baby.


Treating pregnancy heartburn

Gynecologists all over the world recommend avoiding the use of any OTC medicines to relieve and control Pregnancy Heartburn. Antacids which are commonly used to soothe heartburn in non-pregnant individuals should be used by a pregnant woman, only under the direction of the physician as most antacids contain magnesium, which interferes with contractions and may affect labor.


Antacids which contain sodium bicarbonate increase the fluid retention capacity of the fetus and the mother and might affect the growth of the embryo adversely. Proton pump Inhibitors (prescription medicines) are only prescribed in extreme cases, and for individuals who do not respond to the holistic approach of treating Pregnancy Heartburn.


The Holistic Approach to treating pregnancy heartburn

The holistic approach consists of making three pronged life style changes during pregnancy to counter the discomfort caused by pregnancy heartburn. Inculcating and consistently making the required changes to diet, exercise and posture not only relieves individuals of heartburn but helps in having a healthy and well rested pregnancy.


Diet

  • Ensure that the food intake is distributed throughout the day in small portions.

  • Dinner should be had at least a couple of hours before bedtime. Avoid lying down immediately after eating to avoid acid reflux and giving the body some time to digest the food

  • Foods which induce heartburn e.g. mustard, oranges, chocolate, tomato, vinegar or any other known foods that trigger heartburn should be avoided

  • Intake of foods which are processed, fried, spicy and fatty should be limited.

  • Any caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks, tea, and coffee should be avoided.

  • Alcohol and smoking which promote acid reflux should be avoided completely.

  • Always eat a balanced diet and take health supplements as recommended by your physician.

  • Adequate amount of water needs to be taken. However ensure that the fluid consumption is only between meals and not during them.


Exercise

  • Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can aggravate heartburn.

  • Forms like Yoga help in controlling weight and also help in avoiding heartburn. Easy Pose (Sukhasana), Cat Pose (Bidalasana) which ensures fresh blood flow to the abdominal region aid in relieving heartburn. However prenatal Yoga should always be practiced under a qualified trainer.

  • Swimming and walking also help to keep weight under control and heart burn at bay.


Posture

  • Always ensure that an upright position is used while sitting because slouching can exert pressure on the stomach which in turn causes heartburn.

  • Try and keep the spine erect while walking or standing to avoid acid reflux

  • While sleeping, avoid sleeping on your back on a flat surface. Sleeping on the left side is beneficial. Use pillows to elevate the upper body. A wide range of pregnancy pillows available in the market can be used and have proven beneficial.

  • Tight fitted clothing especially across the stomach can put additional pressure on the womb. It is recommended to wear loose fitted clothing.



Bibliography / Reference:

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