Feel the burn: Everything you need to know about heartburn during pregnancy

pregnant woman drinking smoothie

Item number one: it totally sucks!

Now that we’ve got that truth told, here’s a rundown on why heartburn is so prevalent during pregnancy and some ideas on how to keep it at bay.

Why, oh why is this happening?!

“Why me?”, we hear you asking yourself as you press your hand to your chest and remember the good old non-burny days. Well there are actually great reasons behind the heartburn problem, in case that makes you feel any better.

When you are growing a baby, the placenta that’s tucked neatly inside you is producing lots of the hormone progesterone.

The good news is that progesterone helpfully relaxes and smoothes your uterine muscles to help make room for baby. The less good news is that it relaxes the valve that separates your oesophagus from your stomach, too. This means that gastric acid can seep back up through the now-relaxed valve and cause what we know as heartburn. Oh hooray. Not. 

Further, in the final weeks of pregnancy, your baby squishes and crowds your digestive organs, causing heartburn.


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What does heartburn feel like?

If you have heartburn, you’ll feel an uncomfortable, burning sensation in your chest and this may work its way up to your throat. Heartburn can feel worse when you are lying down or when you are bending over.

Does heartburn harm my baby?

No. Not at all. Your baby is completely oblivious to the burning sensation you are experiencing. Phew.

How common is heartburn?

While not every single expectant mum experiences heartburn, it’s very, very common and will disappear after the birth (or for some lucky women, before!)

That said you don’t have to suffer with it! Chat to your GP or midwife about treatment when you next see them.

Which foods should I avoid?

It’s thought that coffee, tea, chocolate, tomatoes, spicy foods and fried foods make heartburn worse. (As if you weren’t cutting out enough delicious foods already! Still, it’s for the greater good!) Everyone is different though, so keep a food diary and make note of what you ate and how you felt, to pinpoint problem foods you might want to temporarily avoid.

It’s also a good idea to eat smaller meals – but more regularly – to avoid the dreaded burn. Five or six small portions could replace the usual burn-inducing and generous three meals?

If you’re not keen to graze all day, many mums find avoiding large meals in the evening really helps keep things at bay, burn-wise. The same goes for drinking – avoid liquids in the hour or two before you go to bed.

Is there any treatment for pregnancy heartburn?

Have a chat to your doctor or midwife about what might work for you. There are plenty of over-the-counter antacids and prescription treatments that will help, but remember to check with your health professional before you take anything.

You can also try avoiding drinking during mealtimes, but staying hydrated and sipping plenty of water either side of meals.

Eating your meals slowly may help too – as well staying upright or even being active after you eat.

Keeping your torso elevated may help prevent heartburn as you drift off to sleep – a wedge-shaped pillow may help you get comfy enough to doze off.

Does this mean I’m going to have a hairy baby?

Um. No. The old wives tale that says heartburn heralds a baby with a full head of hair is untrue!

 


 

Did you experience heartburn during pregnancy? Perhaps it’s happening to you right now?! What worked for you?

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