Are you feeling a burning sensation in your chest or throat?
Your stomach acid must be traveling up toward your throat, giving you heartburn.
Although painful, it often poses minimal risk to expectant mothers or their unborn children.
Heartburn is a typical pregnancy symptom that affects 80% of expectant mothers, especially in the second and third trimesters.
Hormone levels and body composition changes can bring on heartburn and acid reflux.
Symptoms can be avoided and relieved with a few dietary and lifestyle adjustments.
What is the difference between indigestion and heartburn?
Indigestion and heartburn are two related but distinct medical conditions.
Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a general term that describes discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen.
It is often accompanied by symptoms such as:
The cause of indigestion can be due to a variety of factors, such as:
- Eating too much
- Eating too quickly
- Eating high-fat foods
- Drinking alcohol
On the other hand, heartburn is a specific type of indigestion characterized by a burning pain in the chest, just behind the breastbone.
The pain is caused by acid reflux, when the stomach contents, including stomach acid, back up into the esophagus.
This can occur when the muscle at the end of the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter, relaxes inappropriately, allowing stomach acid to reflux back into the esophagus.
Both indigestion and heartburn can be uncomfortable and disruptive, but they are typically not serious.
In most cases, they can be managed with lifestyle changes, such as:
- Avoiding triggers
- Eating smaller and more frequent meals
- Sleeping with extra pillows to elevate the upper body
If symptoms persist or are severe, it is important to see a doctor, as they may indicate a more serious underlying condition.
What are the symptoms of indigestion and heartburn?
The symptoms of indigestion and heartburn can overlap, but there are some key differences between the two conditions.
Indigestion symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Fullness after eating
- Loss of appetite
- A feeling of pressure or fullness in the upper abdomen
Heartburn symptoms can include:
- Burning pain in the chest, just behind the breastbone
- A sour or bitter taste in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- A sore throat
- Hoarse voice
- Dry cough
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
It’s important to note that everyone’s experience with indigestion and heartburn can be different, and the symptoms can vary in severity, frequency, and duration.
What causes you to get heartburn during pregnancy?
Several factors that can contribute to heartburn during pregnancy include:
Hormonal changes: During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone relaxes the valve between the esophagus and the stomach, allowing stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus.
Pressure on the stomach: As the uterus expands, it can put pressure on the stomach, forcing stomach acid into the esophagus.
Dietary factors: Certain foods and drinks can trigger heartburn during pregnancy, such as spicy foods, citrus fruits, chocolate, coffee, and carbonated drinks.
Eating habits: Eating large meals, eating too quickly, or lying down directly after eating can all increase the likelihood of heartburn.
Certain foods: Some foods, such as spicy or fatty foods, citrus fruits, chocolate, and carbonated drinks, can trigger indigestion in some people.
Stress: Stress can increase the likelihood of indigestion, as it can affect the functioning of the digestive system.
It’s important to note that heartburn during pregnancy can be unpredictable and can vary from person to person.
It is always best to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle during pregnancy.
What can you do to help treat indigestion and heartburn?
Treatment for heartburn and indigestion during pregnancy typically involves making lifestyle changes and using over-the-counter (OTC) remedies.
However, it is always best to consult a doctor before taking any new medication during pregnancy.
Here are some things you can do to help relieve indigestion and heartburn:
Avoid trigger foods: Identifying and avoiding foods that trigger symptoms can help reduce the frequency and severity of indigestion and heartburn. Common triggers include spicy foods, fatty or fried foods, citrus fruits, chocolate, and carbonated drinks.
Eat smaller, more frequent meals: Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help reduce the amount of stomach acid produced and the likelihood of indigestion and heartburn.
Avoid lying down after eating: Lying down directly after eating can increase the likelihood of indigestion and heartburn, so it’s best to avoid this if possible.
Wear loose-fitting clothing: Wearing tight clothing can pressure the stomach, increasing the likelihood of heartburn.
Elevate your head while sleeping: Elevating your head can help prevent stomach acid from refluxing into the esophagus. Try sleeping with extra pillows or a wedge under your mattress to elevate your upper body.
Quit smoking: Smoking while expecting can lead to indigestion and harm your and the unborn child’s health. The toxins you breathe in when smoking could aggravate dyspepsia. These substances relax the muscular ring around the base of your gullet, facilitating easier reflux of stomach acid.
Chew gum: Chewing gum can help stimulate saliva production, which can neutralize stomach acid.
Practice stress management techniques: Stress can increase the likelihood of indigestion and heartburn, so it’s important to find ways to manage stress effectively. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation can help reduce stress and improve symptoms.
Avoid alcohol: Alcohol consumption could lead to indigestion. It can cause the unborn child long-term damage throughout pregnancy. It’s best to avoid alcohol altogether while pregnant.
Try over-the-counter remedies: OTC antacids, such as calcium carbonate (Tums), aluminum hydroxide (Maalox), and magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia), can help neutralize stomach acid and provide relief from indigestion and heartburn. OTC H2 blockers, such as ranitidine (Zantac) and famotidine (Pepcid), can help reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach and relieve heartburn.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): PPIs, such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and lansoprazole (Prevacid), work by reducing the amount of acid produced by the stomach. They are more effective than H2 blockers and can relieve heartburn and indigestion. Still, they may take longer to start working than antacids.
Prokinetics: Prokinetics, such as metoclopramide (Reglan) and domperidone (Motilium), work by speeding up the rate at which food passes through the stomach and into the small intestine. They can treat indigestion but may not be as effective for heartburn.
Foam barriers: Foam barriers, such as Gaviscon, can help create a physical barrier between the stomach and esophagus, preventing acid reflux.
It is important to note that some OTC remedies, including certain antacids and H2 blockers, are not considered safe during pregnancy and should be used only under the guidance of a doctor.
Additionally, it is always best to consult a doctor before taking any new medication during pregnancy, as some medications can harm the developing fetus.
What heartburn medications should you avoid during pregnancy?
Some medications used to treat heartburn and acid reflux may not be considered safe during pregnancy, as they can potentially risk the developing fetus.
It’s important to speak with a doctor before taking any new medication, as the risks and benefits will vary depending on the individual woman and pregnancy.
Here are some heartburn medications to avoid during pregnancy:
Cimetidine (Tagamet): This H2 blocker has been associated with an increased risk of congenital disabilities and is generally not recommended during pregnancy.
Ranitidine (Zantac): Although this H2 blocker is generally considered safe during pregnancy, some studies have suggested a possible association with congenital disabilities, so it’s important to speak with a doctor before taking this medication.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and esomeprazole (Nexium): PPIs have been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and other complications, and are generally not recommended for use during pregnancy.
Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol): This antacid and anti-diarrheal medication has not been studied in pregnant women and is generally not recommended during pregnancy.
When should you visit the doctor?
You must visit your doctor if medications don’t relieve your heartburn symptoms.
Pre-eclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication, can make you feel like you are having heartburn and have pain beneath your ribcage.
Additionally, you must contact your physician right away if:
- You are losing weight
- Throwing up blood
- Having trouble swallowing
In conclusion, indigestion and heartburn are common complaints during pregnancy, caused by various factors, including hormonal changes, physical pressure on the digestive system, and changes in eating habits.
While these symptoms can be uncomfortable, they are usually not harmful to the developing fetus.
Some lifestyle changes can be made to help alleviate indigestion and heartburn during pregnancy, such as eating smaller, more frequent meals, avoiding certain trigger foods, and avoiding lying down after eating.
Over-the-counter antacids or prescription medications may also be recommended. Still, speaking with a doctor before taking any new medication is important, as some medications can have potential risks for the developing fetus.
If symptoms are persistent or severe, it’s important to speak with a doctor, as they can indicate a more serious condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
With the guidance of a doctor, it is possible to manage indigestion and heartburn during pregnancy and maintain a healthy pregnancy.