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Heartburn in Pregnancy

Heartburn in Pregnancy

Heartburn in pregnancy is a common problem. While harmless heartburn can be quite painful. Heartburn is often experienced as a strong burning sensation in your chest extending up to your throat. The burning sensation you feel is when stomach acids rise into your oesophagus (the muscular tube that food passes through to your stomach).

Heartburn in pregnancy is very common, particularly later in pregnancy. After 20 weeks of pregnancy many women experience heartburn though some women experience it early than 20 weeks. In the last three months of pregnancy up to 8 out of 10 women will experience heartburn.

Heartburn has two basic causes. First, the high level of progesterone that your body is producing can slow digestion and relax the sphincter muscle, which normally prevents the upward movement of stomach acids between the oesophagus and the stomach. Second, as the uterus grows, it places an upwards pressure on the stomach, which can push stomach acids into the oesophagus.

You may be able to get relief from heartburn by following these suggestions:

  • Avoid coffee
  • Avoid eating just before bedtime because heartburn occurs most readily when you lie down
  • Avoid spicy, fatty and greasy foods
  • Carry a packet of dry crackers to munch on when you feel heartburn — they may neutralise the gas
  • Drink peppermint tea
  • Drink plenty of liquids, but avoid drinking at meal times, which makes heartburn worse
  • Eat small, frequent meals rather than large ones, and chew slowly
  • Eat blanched almonds or dried pawpaw
  • Sleep with your head elevated on several pillows
  • Visit an acupuncturist specialising in pregnancy

If your heartburn becomes intolerable, talk to your midwife or doctor about taking an antacid or a prescription treatment.

Jane Palmer is a mother, birth activist and midwife in private practice located in Sydney, Australia. With additional qualifications as a childbirth educator and lactation consultant, Jane works to improve pregnancy, birth and parenting options for families.

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