Women who are planning to get pregnant or who have already become pregnant likely have a lot of questions on their mind. Due to the abrupt and drastic physical changes that take place during this 9-month period, pregnant women are plagued by questions about their body and whether their pregnancy experience is “normal.” Among the flurry or worries and wonders is a common question: What does heartburn feel like in pregnancy? If this is a question that you have found on your mind lately, then read on to learn what the symptoms of heartburn feel like, what causes heartburn during pregnancy, as well as treatment and prevention methods.
What Does Heartburn Feel Like in Pregnancy?
Many women are under the impression that the way heartburn feels in pregnancy is different than everyday heartburn. In fact, heartburn symptoms experienced while pregnant differ very little from those experienced by the average non-pregnant individual. Heartburn is often likened to the feeling of a cold, acrid-tasting fluid moving upwards from the base of the sternum, or the flat bone in the front of the chest where the rib cage splits. A severe burning sensation in this area is extremely common and may feel stronger than usual during pregnancy, especially during the last few months when the baby’s body tends to push upon the stomach. This same burning feeling mat also be felt in the back, especially when lying down.
Because the stomach’s acid pushes upwards into the esophagus through the sphincter (band of muscles) at the top of the stomach, it often results in discomfort of the chest and throat. Many pregnant women experience a horrible taste in their mouth due to burping up acid that has escaped from the stomach. Bits of food may accompany this acid or the acid itself may trigger mom’s gag reflex, resulting in vomiting or gagging. It is also common to experience a tightening or spasmodic sensation in the muscles of the throat on the underside of the jaw, which is often associated with the impulse to vomit.
Causes of Heartburn During Pregnancy
Now that we’ve discussed how heartburn feels in pregnancy, it’s a good idea to cover the causes behind this uncomfortable condition. The truth is that there are several different causes behind heartburn during pregnancy. In the early stages of pregnancy, one is more likely to experience heartburn as a result of fluctuating hormones. The hormone called progesterone can actually relax the sphincter at the top of the stomach. This sphincter would usually contracts after eating in order to keep food and acid within the stomach. If the sphincter relaxes after a meal then acid can be allowed to exit the stomach and slip up into the esophagus.
Another common cause behind heartburn is excessive pressure on the stomach. As the baby grows the surrounding organs are pushed aside to make room for the child. In the later months of pregnancy, when the baby is at its largest, the stomach may suffer excessive pressure which can force acid and food through the esophageal sphincter.
Other culprits behind heartburn include certain types of foods that can force the ses to relax. Spicy foods such as curry or Cajun food, chocolate, fatty or greasy foods, tomatoes, and caffeinated drinks are well known causes of heartburn. Overeating is another major cause of heartburn during pregnancy.
Pregnancy-Friendly Treatment Methods
Now that you know the causes behind this condition, let’s see what options you have in treating heartburn. There is always the option of antacid tablets such as Rolaids or Tums, which are extremely effective in soothing the symptoms of heartburn; however one has to be careful with how often these tablets are taken. Calcium-based antacid medication has been known to cause constipation. Unfortunately, constipation is already an issue for pregnant women and the added stress that excess calcium can cause may not be worth it. Pregnant women are also at a higher risk of developing hemorrhoids due to the weight of the baby on the colon; however this risk is seriously increased if mom has to deal with the strain that constipation can cause.
Drinking a glass of milk has been known to relieve the symptoms of heartburn as long as the milk is fat free or skimmed. Full fat and even 2% milk can temporarily relieve the symptoms of heartburn while causing excessive production of acid shortly after the milk has been consumed. This is because more acid is needed to break down the fat in the milk.
Preventing Heartburn During Pregnancy
We have now covered what the symptoms of heartburn feel like in pregnancy, as well as the causes and possible treatments for heartburn. Now let’s take a look at how heartburn can be prevented. Heartburn prevention methods are the best way to avoid heartburn altogether. For some women, it could simply be a case of spacing out meals into smaller, more frequent portions. For instance, instead of eating three large meals and a snack or two, try eating six smaller portions throughout the day. It does mean frequent trips to the kitchen but it will definitely help to keep the stomach from becoming too full.
Avoid eating right before a nap or bed time. We all know what the symptoms of heartburn feel like, and many of us are familiar that they often strike just after a meal when bed time or a nice nap is attempted. Lying down after eating can force the esophageal sphincter to relax, allowing acid to escape the stomach. It is recommended to eat at least two hours prior to going to bed. If this cannot be avoided then you can prop yourself up using pillows so that you are in a slightly reclined position. This allows you the comfort to sleep without reclining your body so much that heartburn develops.
Do your best to avoid foods that contribute to heartburn, such as tomato sauces, spicy foods such as chili, curry, Cajun, or Thai cuisine. Greasy foods, soda, tea, and coffee should be had in small amounts. Also attempt to drink less during meal times, as this can cause your stomach to fill up faster.
So, what does heartburn feel like in pregnancy? Simply-put, heartburn feels pretty much the same as it does on any other occasion, although a bit stronger in magnitude. If you find yourself dealing with heartburn on a regular basis, try determining the cause that triggers your heartburn and eliminate it. If this doesn’t seem to help, it may be necessary to speak to your doctor about other possible treatments.