Heartburn occurs when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus is unable to prevent the gastric acids from returning into the esophagus.
During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone causes this valve to relax, causing heartburn. In fact, gastric acids come into contact with the walls of the esophagus causing irritation and the annoying symptom.
Heartburn as well as indigestion are more common during the third trimester, because the growing uterus puts pressure on the intestines and stomach. Pressure on the stomach can also push its contents up into the esophagus.
Heartburn Symptoms During Pregnancy
Common symptoms of heartburn reported by pregnant women include:
- burning sensation in the chest just behind the breastbone that occurs after eating and lasts from a few minutes to several hours
- chest pain, especially after bending over, lying down or after eating
- burning sensation in the throat feeling of hot, sour or salty fluid in the back of the throat
- chronic cough
- wheezing or other asthma-like symptoms
Most cases of heartburn get better with some lifestyle changes. During pregnancy, both alcohol and smoking are prohibited, two habits that worsen the symptoms.
Dietary changes (e.g., eating smaller meals, not eating late at night) may be beneficial. Despite these precautions, the severity of heartburn can increase during the course of pregnancy.
A first aid comes from breaking up meals. Better to eat little and often, 5-6 meals a day.
Another precaution is to lie down in a semi-sitting position after each meal.
Choose to have dinner at least a couple of hours before going to bed (in order to have digested when you go to bed) and avoid making special efforts in the two hours after meals. If anything, try to help yourself with pregnancy pillows to lift your body if you happen to experience burning at night.
Some foods should be eliminated such as fried foods, fatty foods that promote aerophagia, carbonated drinks … In short, try to cook and eat healthily.
The Decalogue of yes and no
- Obviously i acidic and spicy foods increase stomach acid compared to the tasteless ones. Avoid citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, garlic, caffeine, chocolate, soft drinks, etc. Also avoid fried or fatty foods, which slow digestion.
- Eat small, frequent meals instead instead of just 3 meals a day. This helps to avoid overloading the stomach and allows it to empty faster.
- Sit with your back straight when you eat
- Don’t eat for three hours before going to bed. When you are lying down, digestion slows down and burning begins. If, on the other hand, you go to bed after digestion, this helps you sleep without the annoying burning sensation.
- Not smokingThere are countless reasons not to smoke during pregnancy, and heartburn is just one of them. The chemicals in cigarettes cause the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus to relax and consequently the stomach acids rise.
- Keep your head up 15-20 cm when you sleep. The easiest way is to place the pillows under the shoulders, you can also raise the bed from the head side by putting shims under the bed legs or buy a special wedge pillow to be placed between the mattress and the slatted base. This way gravity helps you not to have acid reflux.
- Wear loose clothing, so as to avoid having additional pressure on the stomach
- Drink after meals and not during. Drinking fluids with meals causes an overfilled stomach, ready for heartburn.
- Test acupuncture. In a 2015 study, pregnant women who underwent acupuncture reported improvement in symptoms.
- Don’t drink alcohol. As with smoking, alcohol is also completely banned in pregnancy. In addition to the fact that exposure to alcohol can cause a range of problems for the developing baby (from low birth weight to learning difficulties) alcohol can also relax the valve that keeps stomach contents inside.
Medicines against acidity and heartburn
In the guide to drugs in pregnancy, drawn up by AIFA, the Italian drug agency, we read:
In pregnancy the first choice drugs only antacids: in general magnesium preparations are preferred and products with a high sodium content should be avoided.
In the event that the antacids do not have any effect, we move on to a more important therapy. We always read in the AIFA Guide:
The drug of choice is ranitidine, if therapy with H2 receptor antagonists is required; omeprazole if therapy with proton pump inhibitors is required.
In any case, it is always recommended to ask to your doctor before taking any drug remedies. This also applies to over-the-counter drugs.
Are there any foods and drinks that can help ease this nuisance?
Lettuce (well washed to reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis), must never be missing in salads because it regulates the acid secretions that are produced in the stomach. Fennel, and herbal teas based on fennel, are very useful in case of digestive problems. Also it ginger if chewed for a few minutes it produces almost immediate relief from heartburn.
To quench the acidity try eating one yogurt or to drink a glass of milk. You can also try a spoonful of honey in a glass of warm milk.
There are many other natural remedies starting from mint, then chicory, chamomile, lemon balm … elm also has its benefits.
Ask at the pharmacy or your trusted herbalist about the possibility of taking natural remedies during pregnancy (natural does not always mean safe), and never take any medication without a prescription.
Vazquez JC. Heartburn in pregnancy. BMJ Clin Evid. 2015; 2015: 1411. Published 2015 Sep 8.
Phupong V, Hanprasertpong T. Interventions for heartburn in pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 9. Art. No .: CD011379. DOI: 10.1002 / 14651858.CD011379.pub2.
AIFA: Guide to the correct use of drugs in pregnancy