Heartburn and Pregnancy: Easing the Discomfort
Finding out you’re pregnant is an exciting time, but the excitement soon wears off as you begin to experience some of the early symptoms that your baby is growing in your belly. Heartburn is an ailment many moms experience during pregnancy, along with nausea, tiredness and other bodily changes. Many of these are caused by your changing hormones.
What Is Heartburn?
Heartburn, also known as acid indigestion, is not a pleasant feeling. A burning sensation in your esophagus, it's caused by stomach contents that come back up.
Changing hormone levels cause heartburn by affecting the muscles of the digestive track and your body’s ability to tolerate different foods. The hormones cause the valve between the stomach and esophagus to relax, and those stomach acids splash right back up.
Heartburn can be experienced in early pregnancy, but it's most common during the second and third trimesters when your growing uterus crowds your abdomen and pushes stomach acid back up.
It’s rare, but gallstones can also cause heartburn during pregnancy, so it’s important to mention any issues to your doctor.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms
The most noticeable early symptom of pregnancy is a missed period. Nausea, tender breasts and fatigue are the next three symptoms noticed earliest in pregnancy.
Nausea, frequently known as morning sickness, can happen at any time of the day. It may or may not involve vomiting and usually goes away after the first trimester.
Other symptoms you may experience in pregnancy in addition to heartburn include backaches, headaches, bloating, cramping or light spotting, frequent urination, food cravings and aversions, constipation, darkening of your areolas, and mood swings.
If your cramping or bleeding is more than just mild, let your doctor know.
Preventing and Treating Heartburn
You can take some steps to ease the pain of heartburn, including:
- Eat several small meals each day rather than three large ones, and eat those meals slowly. Avoid foods that can cause the valve between the stomach and esophagus to relax, including fried, spicy or fatty foods.
- Avoid drinking too many liquids while you’re eating since this increases the risk of heartburn. Instead, drink between meals.
- Don’t lie down right after you eat, but once you do, keep your head and shoulders higher than the rest of your body.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing. Tighter clothes increase the pressure on your stomach and lead to more heartburn.
If none of these remedies help, talk to your doctor about taking a liquid heartburn reliever. Generally, these are safe to take during pregnancy, but it’s always good to run it by your doctor first.
Determining if You’re Pregnant
If you experience any pregnancy symptoms, it’s a good idea to take a home pregnancy test. Although some tests are designed to detect pregnancy before your missed period, waiting until the first day of a missed cycle is best. As long as you use the test correctly, they’re very accurate.
Once you’ve determined you're pregnant, make an appointment with your doctor. If your test is negative and you’re still experiencing pregnancy symptoms, you should check with your doctor.