Heartburn and Pregnancy

Heartburn and pregnancy is one of the most common complaints heard by obstetricians. Pregnancy is a very special time in a woman’s life, full of astounding changes. There are astonishing changes to the overall physique, as well as some other physiological changes that are not seen by the naked eye. During the 40 weeks of gestation, a woman’s blood volume will double and her lung capacity increases by 30 percent. Her uterus increases by as much as five times its pre-pregnancy size by 40 weeks and levels of progesterone are rising throughout the pregnancy which can help contribute to heartburn.
Heartburn is a fairly common ailment for people of all ages. It is usually caused by the back-up of stomach acid into the esophagus, causing a burning or raw sensation in the chest and throat. It is usually completely harmless but extremely uncomfortable. Heartburn becomes more common during pregnancy than for most people for several reasons, but specifically due to the increasing size of the uterus, as well as an increase in progesterone levels.

An increase in uterine size is one of the major culprits for heartburn and pregnancy. The reason why is because as the uterus grows larger, mainly toward the end of pregnancy, it pushes on the stomach. This can cause stomach acid to back up into the throat, causing heartburn. Many women complain of heartburn for the very first time as they near the end of their third trimester because the increasing size of the baby is causing the uterus to put pressure on the stomach.
Another reason for heartburn during pregnancy is an increase in progesterone levels. Progesterone itself is not the culprit to heartburn, but it causes many of the muscles in a woman’s body to loosen and slacken to prepare her for labor and delivery. When this happens, often the muscle at the top of the duodenum loosens, which can contribute to acid leaking upwards into the esophagus and throat, contributing to heartburn.
There are a number of things a woman can do during pregnancy to help alleviate heartburn–particularly entering the third trimester. Acid reflux and heartburn remedies can include:
Avoiding spicy foods. These are a known culprit to contributing to acid indigestion and heartburn, even when a woman is not pregnant.
Eating smaller meals more frequently. The more full the stomach is, the more acid is likely to back up. By eating smaller meals more frequently, less pressure is put on the stomach, which means less likelihood for the backup of acid into the throat.
Avoid foods high in acid or fat. Acidic foods can increase the acidity of the stomach, leading to more severe acid reflux. Fatty foods are harder for the stomach to break down, and cause the stomach to create larger amounts of stomach acid, making it more likely to have reflux reactions and discomfort.

Sit for at least 30 minutes after eating.. When you lie down, you are giving stomach acid an easier path to creep up the esophagus and cause discomfort. By remaining upright, gravity is working to help prevent stomach acid from causing heartburn or reflux.
Heartburn is an extremely common condition during pregnancy. Oftentimes. There are a number of contributing factors to heartburn and pregnancy, but most commonly the expanding uterus and increased levels of progesterone are the culprits behind heartburn during pregnancy.

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