During my third trimester, no matter what I ate, I would get heartburn. I was initially worried as heartburn wasn’t one of my expectations. I knew, I would have some skin changes, swollen feet, maybe morning sickness and some midnight cravings but didn’t know heartburn could be one of the experiences.
The body produces a large amount of progesterone and relaxin during early pregnancy. These hormones help in relaxing our muscles, including those of the gastrointestinal tract. Usually, when we eat or drink, the lower oesophagal valve (which is controlled by muscles), opens for the food to go into the stomach before shutting tightly.
Due to the increased progesterone levels during pregnancy though, these muscles slacken, leaving the valve partially open which can allow stomach acids to flow back into the oesophagus and perhaps even all the way into the throat. This is what causes heartburn.
Phew! Yes, that was a lot of science for me too! I think what the body is are capable of doing is truly amazing and while nurturing a new life inside me was beautiful and heartwarming, but heartburn didn’t exactly add to the charm of the journey. However, there were a few things that helped me deal with the heartburn that I've mentioned here, in the hope they will help you too.
5 tips to deal with heartburn:
1. Eat small, frequent meals:
As you have probably heard, as the little one inside you grows over the course of your pregnancy, there is less room for your stomach to expand. Eating smaller meals ensures that your stomach doesn't have to expand beyond the limits of the space that is available and thus helps reduce heartburn. Try having 5-6 smaller meals a day instead of 3 large ones to make sure that you have enough nutrients for both you and your baby.
2. Increase your fluids:
My mom’s favourite tip for any query --- drink enough water. Well, she is right about this (and many other things!) Fluids are easier to digest and cause fewer problems than solid food, therefore, along with water, add some soups, smoothies, protein shakes or yoghurt. These will help you stay full for a longer period and will help in improving your gut health too!
3. Eliminate trigger foods:
There are some foods that trigger your gut. Fried, spicy and greasy foods can cause heartburn even if you aren't pregnant. For some of us, this can be caused by coffee
, chocolate or alcohol too. Listen to the signals that your body is trying to send you and prep your meals and snacks accordingly.
4. Sleep in the right position:
Sometimes a simple change in sleeping positions is enough to prevent heartburn. If you sleep
on your back, (as I did) , it is easier for acids from the stomach to travel up to the oesophagus. Try elevating your head by 6 or 9 inches using pillows and sleeping on your left side. Since your stomach is situated on the left, this position naturally prevents acids from flowing back from the stomach as they will now have to travel uphill (against gravity), to reach the oesophagus.
5. Don’t lie down immediately after eating:
Lying down immediately after eating is the perfect recipe for heartburn. Giving some time for digestion before you hit the bed will help in reducing heartburn.
Aside from these, try relaxing as much as you can. Stress can increase gastric compounds, so taking some me-time
can help prevent heartburn. Prenatal yoga, meditation and the occasional manicure and pedicure really worked for me. If a else fails, there are a few over-the-counter medicines such as antacids that also help, but it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking these.