By Rebecca Kubenk IBCLC
Many women experience heartburn and indigestion at some point during their pregnancy.
The burning sensation that is associated with heartburn often extends from your lower throat to the bottom of your breastbone. It usually comes and goes until your baby is born.
Heartburn during pregnancy is known to be caused by both hormonal and physical changes to the woman’s body. During pregnancy, the placenta produces the hormone progesterone, which relaxes the smooth muscles of the uterus.
Progesterone also relaxes the valve that separates the oesophagus from the stomach, allowing gastric acids to escape, which causes that unpleasant sensation of heartburn. The hormone also makes digestion sluggish as it slows the wavelike contractions of the stomach.
As the pregnancy advances, the growing baby crowds the abdominal cavity, slowing the elimination of waste from the body and pushing up the stomach acids up into the throat. More so when a mother is carrying more than one baby, as I found out myself. During my twin pregnancy, my heartburn was the worse than my other pregnancies.
The same process that causes the woman discomfort can benefit the baby because nutrients that remain in the bloodstream may be absorbed into your baby's system.
What can I do about it?
While there is little an expectant mother can do to avoid this unpleasant time. Here are some helpful suggestions that can help reduce the chances of it occurring at night:
Avoid eating rich or spicy meals as well as chocolate, citrus fruit or juices, coffee.
Avoid eating heavy meals, or try smaller portions more often and chew the food and fully and slowly.
Allow yourself two or three hours to digest your meal before going to bed.
Try sleeping propped up in bed to give gravity a chance to keep the stomach acids down. Use two or three extra pillows to prop yourself up, or raise one end of the bed, or you can also try sleeping upright in a comfortable chair.
Wearing loose and comfortable clothing, especially around your waist.
Some women have found consuming a milky drink before retiring for the night helps their heartburn, although there is evidence that the fat content in milk can actually make heartburn worse.