Pregnancy and Heartburn

Pregnancy is considered to be a time of joy for new mothers. This is the time when they are pampered and their every wish is fulfilled (well almost every wish). There are however a few things that can cause discomfort and pain for an expectant mother. One of these is pregnancy heartburn.

The question that arises is why do some women experience heartburn while they are pregnant and other women don’t?

Heartburn occurs when the digested food juices reflux back into your esophagus and throat. There is a valve that usually keeps the stomach acids in the stomach where the intestinal lining protects your body from the effects of the acid. This valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. When the LES relaxes, the stomach acids reflux into the esophagus. This causes the lining of the esophagus, which is thin and unable to deal with the acid, to get irritated and inflamed.

With a pregnant mother heartburn does not occur only because of the digested food juices refluxing back into the esophagus and throat. The increased amounts of hormones in the body can soften the muscles that normally keep the LES closed. Thus if the LES relaxes at an inappropriate moment, then food and gastric acid reflux back into the esophagus.

There is also another reason that might contribute to pregnancy heartburn. During pregnancy a woman’s body goes through many changes to accommodate the growing baby. As the baby continues to grow within the womb, there is pressure put upon the stomach. This pressure in turn may force the stomach acid to reflux through the LES into the esophagus. Thus causing pregnancy heartburn.

As there is no clear way to completely eliminate heartburn even during pregnancy, the most sensible approach to take is to minimize the discomfort that you may experience because of pregnancy heartburn. With a few simple precautions you can hold the heartburn at bay. Avoiding certain foods that are known to trigger heartburn can greatly reduce the chances of heartburn.

Avoid drinks containing coffee, tea, colas and alcohol as these can relax the LES and allow acid to reflux back into the esophagus. Also don’t eat large meals. Instead eat several small meals throughout the day. Take your time eating, rushing through meals helps put unwanted pressure upon the LES. You also need to drink plenty of water in small amounts throughout the day.

When you go to sleep at night, keep your head elevated higher than your body. This position will keep your stomach contents in your stomach where they belong and not in the esophagus where they will cause pregnancy heartburn. During the day you should sit upright in a comfortable chair rather than slouching.

Gain a sensible amount of weight and stay within the weight guidelines your doctor suggests. Being pregnant does not mean suffering unduly because of heartburn, rather you can think of it as a change in your lifestyle. A change for a miracle of life, not for pregnancy heartburn.