Heartburn and indigestion are common pregnancy problems. While indigestion often accompanies the nausea of the first trimester, heartburn tends to peak in the third trimester.
There is a misconception that pregnant women are more acidic, and that this causes heartburn and indigestion. In fact, they tend to greater alkalinity, so that’s not the cause! Rather, the hormones relaxin and progesterone reduce gastric and intestinal tone as well as motility and relax the valve between the stomach and the gullet. If this valve does not close tightly, acidic stomach content may repeat into the gullet and makes you liable to heartburn.
Also, as pregnancy progresses, the enlarging uterus causes increased gastric pressure, which may also exacerbate the flow of acidic stomach contents through to the alkaline oesophagus. The result is heartburn and indigestion.
Interestingly, women who are driven, hot-headed or tense tend to suffer more from these uncomfortable symptoms! You can help yourself naturally in these ways:
- Eating smaller meals more regularly, rather than big meals.
- Not eating for three hours before sleep as heartburn is worse when lying prone before food has moved out of the stomach.
- Reducing spicy, fatty and rich foods considerably.
- Taking a safe homeopathic remedy for heartburn, or the tissue salt Nat phos.
- Adding a few drops of peppermint essence to a cup of hot water, and sip that slowly.
- Chewing a mint leaf or a small piece of liquorice.
- If necessary, raising the head of your bed a little or sleep on a continental pillow or two.
- Doing the 3-step heartburn stretch!
- Facing a wall, kneel down and then sit on your legs. Keep your knees splayed wide, about 30cm from the wall. Your toes should be together and your heels opened away from each other.
- Keep your buttocks firmly down on your feet and place your hands palm-down against the wall.
- ‘Walk’ your hands up the wall, keeping buttocks and shoulder blades as low as possible, until you feel stretching between your shoulder blades and less pressure from baby on the diaphragm area.
When heartburn just won’t improve!
Using many antacids for heartburn is not a good idea as your body already tends to greater alkalinity in pregnancy – choose one that has a proven track record or ask your pharmacist or doctor for a recommendation.