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Heartburn which is also called acid indigestion, is an irritation or burning sensation of the esophagus caused by stomach contents that reflux (comes back up) from the stomach; causing discomfort or pain.

In early pregnancy, heartburn is caused by the hormone progesterone, which relaxes the uterine muscles to fit your growing baby and also relaxes the valve between the esophagus and the stomach. In the final months of pregnancy, the baby squashes your digestive organs and causes heartburn.More than half of all pregnant women report symptoms of severe heartburn, particularly during their second and third trimesters.

Heartburn in pregnancy may occur due to the changing hormone levels, which can affect the muscles of the digestive tract and how different foods are tolerated.

1. Signs of heartburn
There is usually a burning feeling in your chest, behind your breastbone. The sensation might start in your stomach and work its way up and gets worse when you lie down or bend over.

2. Tips to prevent heartburn during pregnancy:

  • When eating, do not rush your meal; take your time.
  • Avoid eating large portions at once, rather eat several small meals daily.
  • Avoid eating fried and spicy food, chocolate, coffee, tea, citrus, tomato sauces etc.
  • Avoid eating before you go to bed.
  • Drink less while eating. Drinking large amounts while eating may increase the risk of acid reflux and heartburn. However, drink plenty of water an hour before and an hour after meals so you don’t get dehydrated.
  • Avoid lying down immediately after eating.
  • Keep the head of your bed higher than the foot of your bed. Or place pillows under your shoulders to help prevent stomach acids from rising into your chest.
  • You can ask your doctor about using medications such as Tums or Maalox, which are generally safe to use during pregnancy. There are also liquid heartburn relievers which most people prefer using due to its effectiveness in treating heartburn, because they coat the esophagus.
  • Drink lots of water to avoid constipation.
  • Wear loose clothing because tight clothes can increase the pressure on your stomach and abdomen.
  • Caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea can increase stomach acidity, so opt for herbal tea instead.

3. Natural remedies

  • Fresh or dried papaya contains papain which is a digestive enzyme that aids digestion and soothes the stomach.
  • A handful of almonds when you feel heartburn coming on may relieve the symptoms.
  • Warm milk with a tablespoon of honey.
  • Ginger can be taken in capsules, as candied ginger or as a tea.
  • Apples contain acid neutralising substances. Eat one after a meal to relieve heartburn and one during the day to prevent it.

4. Natural relief options

  • Stand tall, with arms raised above the head to increase chest space for immediate relief.
  • Drink milk or peppermint tea.
  • Chewing gum can stimulate saliva, which helps neutralise stomach acid.

NOTE: Heartburn usually disappears after childbirth. Be patient and try following the above tips. However, if heartburn seems to be unbearable contact your doctor immediately.

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