Heartburn, also known as pyrosis or acid indigestion, is a burning sensation in the center of the chest that as much as half of the world’s population suffers at some point in their lives. Many women suffer pregnancy heartburn symptoms, which can make getting rest a nightmare, as heartburn attacks usually occur when the body is in a horizontal position. At least 25% of pregnant women experience heartburn on a daily basis.
Pregnancy heartburn symptoms can occur for two reasons. First, the increase in estrogen and other hormones increases the production of stomach acids, which then leak into the esophagus, producing heartburn. Second, as the pregnancy advances, heartburn symptoms may be caused or exacerbated by the fetus growing and pressing against the stomach, which can cause the stomach to churn out excess acid.
Pregnant sufferers of heartburn symptoms often treat their heartburn the same way as chronic sufferers. An important first step is to reduce intake of certain foods that cause and exacerbate heartburn. These foods cause the muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach to relax, which results in gastric acid leaking into the esophageal tube. These foods include coffee, soft drinks, acidic fruit juices, sweets, chocolate, alcohol, and spicy foods. Reducing intake of these foods, or avoiding them altogether, dramatically reduces the incidence of heartburn symptoms during pregnancy.
Another way pregnant women can prevent the onset of heartburn is to not eat within an hour of bedtime. Gastric juices are most active during and immediately after a meal, so waiting for the stomach to settle down reduces in less acid leaking into the esophagus while lying down.
Drinking plenty of water between, but not during, meals can also help alleviate the suffering of pregnancy heartburn symptoms. Sufferers should avoid drinking more than a glass of fluids with meals. Drinking too much with food can overfill the stomach, causing a gastric eruption into the esophagus.
Eating smaller meals more frequently can also help ease the pain of pregnancy heartburn symptoms. Again, this has to do with not overfilling the stomach. In addition, the stomach tends to over-produce acid when it is hungry, so keeping the stomach fuller more times of the day will decrease the built-up acid.
Anyone suffering heartburn symptoms during pregnancy should make sure they keep their physician informed about this. While it is a common occurrence, doctors may be able to prescribe treatments for more serious cases. Under no circumstances should heartburn be left untreated, as this can lead to more serious health issues.