Heartburn can strike at any moment during pregnancy. While I thought it was generally a symptom that occurs later on when your baby begins to grow and press on organs, I found that my heartburn started much sooner — in the first trimester! Learn why heartburn happens, ways to treat it, and when to see a doctor.
During pregnancy, a women’s body releases extra hormones called progesterone. The purpose of progesterone during pregnancy is to keep the placenta healthy, maintain a thick and healthy uterine wall, and promote breast growth. One not-so-great side effect is it also relaxes the sphincter muscle that separates the esophagus and the stomach making it much easier for acid and food to make their way back up. This burning sensation is called heartburn or acid reflux.
There are several things you can do that really helped me to help prevent heartburn:
- Avoid common heartburn triggers which include alcohol (you should be avoiding this anyway), coffee, chocolate, citrus foods, tomato-based foods like ketchup, spicy, and fatty foods. Looking back at my pregnancy, the thought of any of these foods makes me want to cringe!
- Eat smaller meals to avoid your stomach from filling up. Any excess food will make it’s way right back up!
- Drink small amounts of liquid at a time. The same principle applies to eating small meals.
- Lay propped up. There was no way I could have ever laid flat on my back during pregnancy without suddenly spewing acidic liquid out my mouth.
- One word – Tums! Over-the-counter antacids became my best friend during pregnancy. Beware, taking too many antacids can lead to constipation. Try not to take any more than stated on the label. I am guilty of overdoing the antacids and was taking upwards of 12 or more a day. Eek!
When reflux becomes severe enough during pregnancy, it can lead to complications for the expectant mother. Just like any person who experiences severe heartburn, acid can burn the lining of your esophagus and lead to bleeding, ulcers, and even cancer. Don’t worry, this is very rare, but it is important to keep an eye out for any inflammation in your throat due to excessive acid spit up.
If you’re like me and have dealt with heartburn before pregnancy (mine started at 4 years old), beware because it will become much worse and can erode the coating of enamel on your teeth leading to sensitivity and possibly the worst tooth infection you have ever experienced! I can vouch for that one.
If you get to the point where drinking water gives you heartburn and it begins to make you utterly miserable, do not hesitate to see a doctor. My tipping point was when I was having a conversation with someone and out of nowhere acid spewed out my mouth and nose mid-conversation! It was very embarrassing. I was one of those pregnant women who was paranoid about any medication, but there are safe prescription antacids on the market for people like you and I. When I finally caved in and got a prescription for my reflux, I went from needing a dozen daily Tums to none all in one day! My only regret is not getting a prescription sooner.