Before becoming pregnant, chances are you never experienced heartburn. During pregnancy, hormones such as relaxin and progesterone relax muscles and ligaments throughout the body. As digestive muscles relax, stomach acids are able to move more readily back into the esophagus, which can lead to heartburn.
Heartburn, or acid reflux, actually refers to discomfort in the stomach and esophagus and is completely unrelated to the heart. However, the physical sensation of burning in the center of the chest that occurs with gastroesophageal reflux explains its popular nickname. Heartburn is very common during pregnancy.
While some medications can trigger heartburn, a diet high in greasy and fatty foods, chocolate and caffeinated beverages, or onion, garlic and spicy foods is often the culprit. Eating too much or too quickly can also lead to reflux, as the muscles preventing stomach acids from returning to the esophagus are weakened and therefore compromised. The more the esophageal lining is irritated, the worse the burning sensation.
Heartburn often worsens when lying down, and it can increase later in pregnancy as the uterus enlarges and presses more on the stomach.
Eating smaller, more frequent meals during the day can help prevent heartburn. Opt for low-fat, less spicy foods if possible. It’s also a good idea to wait a while after eating before lying down.
If heartburn continues to rear its ugly face, there are many treatment options. While over-the-counter antacids can help, they also can contain a lot of sodium and even lead. Talk first with a healthcare practitioner.
Some natural remedies can help alleviate the discomfort of heartburn. Ingesting dairy products such as milk — try it warm with honey — or yogurt can help. Relaxing breath work as well as physical postures of yoga can also prove beneficial.
Yoga Journal maintains a list of postures that assist the digestive organs however, some of these are not advised during pregnancy.