Heart burn and indigestion are very common in pregnancy, especially in last few months of pregnancy.

Heart burn and indigestion occur in pregnancy due to the hormonal changes that occur in later months of pregnancy, to facilitate baby’s growth. As the growing baby presses on the intestines and stomach,  heart burn and regurgitation of food may occur. Stress may also be considered as one of the causes of heart burn and indigestion in pregnancy or otherwise.

 Normally, a valve that is present between esophagus and stomach prevents the acid released in stomach from entering or going back into esophagus. The raised progesterone hormone levels in pregnancy relax this valve and allows acid to enter into esophagus causing a burning sensation in the center of chest and upper part of the abdomen which is called heart burn. It is not related to heart as the name suggests.

 Symptoms of indigestion may include vomiting sensation (nausea), vomiting, pain or discomfort in chest and stomach, loss of hunger, feeling full, burps, seen any time of the day or after eating food or drinking fluids.

Generally, no investigation may need to be done in the beginning stages unless there is a suspicion for obstruction or an ulcer in digestive system or an underlying serious disease condition. Mild symptoms can be managed by following a few of the tips mentioned below. Severe symptoms may demand prescription of medications along with the home remedies for an effective treatment.

Medications which may be of help are antacids which neutralize the acid released in stomach and give relief, acid-suppressing medicines which decrease release of the acid and anti-emetics for vomiting.

Avoiding a heart burn and indigestion is considered as the best approach. A few tips which may be of help are

  • Eating small, regular and frequent meals rather than 3 large meals in a day.
  • Sitting straight while eating food which eases off the pressure on stomach and helps in better digestion.
  • Having healthy foods like green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Cutting down spices in food, avoiding oily, fatty and spicy food.
  • Drinking at least 2-3 litres of water daily.
  • Walking for a few minutes after having food, rather than lying down immediately
  • walking for around 5-10 minutes often in a day without sitting or lying down for long hours (avoiding a sedentary lifestyle)
  • Eating an early dinner, at least 1-3 hours before going to bed.
  • Adding one or two pillows while sleeping which keeps the head slightly elevated and propped up….This avoids reflux of stomach contents into food pipe.
  • Avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption.
  • Avoiding foods that triggers ingestion for you
  • Bending over immediately after eating etc.

References:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/indigestion-heartburn-pregnant.aspx

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/heartburn-during-pregnancy/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20047208

– Dr. Divya Teja Pasupuleti

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