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Mommy How-To: Treating Heartburn During Pregnancy

Heart burn occurs in pregnancy quite often, however, doctors now believe that with the following suggestions, heart burn can be nearly eliminated! Heart burn is a result of extra progesterone being produced in your body. Progesterone is the hormone that assists in relaxing the muscles in your body, allowing baby to grow in your abdomen. Progesterone also affects the valve that leads from your esophagus to your stomach. This valve opening is relaxed, and after meals stomach acid is more likely to be able to escape up the esophagus, resulting in the burning feeling in your chest. As your baby gets bigger, there is less room for your stomach, making the distance from your stomach to your esophagus that much shorter and less distance for stomach acid to travel. Here are some successful and proven techniques to help keep heart burn at bay and minimize that burning feeling.


  • Eat Smaller Meals. Eating smaller meals keeps your stomach from becoming too full and more likely to push stomach acid up. Think of a cup, when you pour too much water into a cup, the water spills out. This is similar to how your body works; when there is too much food in your stomach, stomach acid will escape up into your esophagus.


  • Eat Slowly. This helps your body digest food as it is ingested and keeps your stomach from getting to full too quickly. Eating slower also keeps you from overeating and sticking to smaller meals.


  • Sip Liquids During Meals. Try to only sip water during meals instead of having a large glass of water or milk. If you are trying to make sure your stomach has enough room for the small meals you are consuming, drinking a whole glass of water will crowd your stomach, making it too full, and cause stomach acid to leap up into your esophagus. Try to get the majority of your liquids in between meals. This also helps reduce the feelings of hunger between meals as well.


  • Do Not Lay Down After a Meal. Laying down makes it easier for the stomach acid produced during your meal spill into your esophagus. Think about how gravity works, you want to keep stomach acid further down in your body, in your stomach. Maintaining a standing or seated position will help keep the stomach acid in your stomach. Walking after a meal is the best choice, this keeps your body vertical and aids in digestion to get that stomach acid that much faster out of your stomach!


  • Avoid Consuming Anything Three Hours Prior to Bedtime. This relates to not laying down after a meal. If you have dinner and immediately lay down to go to sleep, this causes the stomach acid to, again, rise up in your esophagus. Finishing eating three hours before bed will make sure that the majority of your food is out of your stomach. It is also advisable to stop water intake several hours prior to bedtime as well.


  • Get a “Bedge”. A bedge is a pillow, or wedge, that is used in bed to keep you upright, at an angle, while you sleep. Staying in an elevated position uses gravity to keep stomach acid where it belongs: in your stomach! You can pick these up on the internet or for as little as $25 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.


  • Keep a Food Journal. It is important to understand what foods trigger your heartburn the most. Many pregnant women can eat spicy food just fine, however for many this sets off heart burn in others. Until you understand what foods trigger your heart burn the most, right down what you eat each time you feel heart burn and try to avoid those foods in the future.


  • Avoid Tight Clothes. Tight clothes mimic baby getting bigger: less room for your stomach. Pressure is applied to the abdomen and pushes your stomach up, and results in less room for food in your stomach. Try to wear loose fitting clothes, avoiding any constriction over or under your belly.


  • Ginger. Ginger naturally calms the stomach. You can drink ginger tea, ginger ale, or chew on ginger if you are really brave! It also helps with vomiting and nausea.


  • Medications: Antacids that have magnesium and calcium added, which are actually very good for pregnant women, help with soothing heart burn. Avoid antacids with aluminum and sodium bicarbonate, such as Pepto Bismol, and stick to antacids such as Tums. There are also H2 blockers and protein pump inhibitors if antacids are not enough. These are available over the counter and many are safe during pregnancy. Tagament and Zantac are some good options for H2 blockers, reducing the production of stomach acid. Stronger than H2 blockers are protein pump inhibitors, such as Prevesad, which also reduces the production of stomach acid. A common protein pump inhibitor, Prilosec, is not recommended for pregnant women. Talk with your doctor before you start using any medications, even if they are offered over the counter.


Following these suggestions greatly reduces, and can even eliminate, the occurrence of heartburn. Talk with your doctor about your heart burn if natural remedies are not working. Medication is only recommended when other options are not effectively working.


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