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Heartburn in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a memorable and cherished time period for most women. In the modern era, most women opt for a ‘one’ or ‘two-child norm. Pregnancy is the time when a woman becomes a mother. The feeling cannot be described in words. But for many women, there are also memories of ‘morning sickness’ and unpleasant vomitings associated with it.

Nausea and vomiting are common complaints during the first half of pregnancy. Usually, this starts after the first missed period and continues until about 14 to 16 weeks and is a common cause of heartburn in pregnancy. Vomiting in pregnancy is believed to be due to increased hCG levels (the placental hormone). Moreover, the hormone of pregnancy, progesterone relaxes the upper end of the stomach. This leads to the weakening of the valve between the esophagus and stomach, thus, allowing acidic contents from the stomach to enter the food pipe. This results in heartburn.

There is another reason for heartburn in late pregnancy i.e. due to compression of the stomach by growing baby or by the head of the baby in cases of breech presentation (baby is upside down). Due to compression of the stomach, there is a regurgitation of its contents into the food pipe, leading to heartburn.

In total, anything that puts acidic contents of the stomach back into the food pipe results in heartburn. 

What can you do to prevent heartburn?

  1. Eat small frequent meals—Eating small-sized meals every 2-3 hours instead of 3 major meals provides a good energy level and is easy on the stomach to digest too.
  2. Take more liquids—Liquids cause less heartburn as they do not distend the stomach too much.
  3. Walk after a meal—Immediate lying down after a meal increases the chances of regurgitation.
  4. Have an early dinner—This provides more time for the stomach to digest the meal before you lie down.
  5. Sleep with a pillow under your head and on the left sideThis decreases chances of reflux into the food pipe as the curvature of the stomach follows that anatomically.
  6. Avoid certain foods—Some food items act as triggers for gastritis and should be avoided in pregnancy e.g. chocolates, coffee, fried foods, alcohol, etc.
  7. Ginger—It is an effective nonpharmacological therapy for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.
  8. Avoid certain medicines—Some medicines e.g. commonly used pain killers aggravate gastritis and cause heartburn. So avoid such medicines unless prescribed by a doctor.
  9. Medicines—If you are suffering too much heartburn due to nausea and vomiting, consult your doctor. Vitamin B6 alone or in combination with doxylamine is a safe and effective therapy for such women. Rarely there can be other causes of heartburn e.g. gastric ulcer or hiatus hernia for which specific treatment is required. Don’t indulge in self-medication if you are not relieved with the simple measures mentioned above and seek proper medical advice.

Above mentioned are simple effective measures to combat the heartburn associated with pregnancy. Here’s wishing you a healthy, safe, and joyful pregnancy!!

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