Pregnancy is a magical time but also one often filled with niggling discomforts. You may be over the first trimester morning sickness only to be greeted with heartburn. Pregnancy heartburn (also referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disorder or GERD for short) is a common occurrence during pregnancy affecting over 50% of pregnant women. It is more likely to affect women who have experienced heartburn before pregnancy but can also affect women who have never experienced it before.
What causes pregnancy heartburn?
Its cause is often due to two factors.
The first is baby taking up real estate right near the stomach, thereby placing extra pressure on it.
The other has to do with the effects of pregnancy hormones on the valve that separates the stomach from the oesophagus called the oesophagal sphincter.
The job of this valve is to keep food in the stomach. In pregnancy, we have extra amounts of a hormone called progesterone running around our body. This star hormone of pregnancy (think ‘pro-gestation’) has many roles. It’s most important being a muscle relaxant.
A relaxed womb makes for a haven for baby. A relaxed oesophagal sphincter means that the stomach contents can’t stay in its place. Our bodies are so intelligent, but haven’t quite mastered that valve yet!
As you can see pregnancy is a perfect storm for heartburn.
Luckily simple dietary and habit tweaking can make a big difference! And many herbal medicines can bring comfort naturally. There are a couple of pharmacy options that do have good safety profiles. However, they work by inhibiting stomach acid which is essential for breaking down your food and absorbing nutrients.
Following these six guidelines can bring you a great deal of relief and may allow you to either stop or reduce the need for antacid medications.
#1. Adopt a new eating mantra
Eat small and regular meals. Do not drink liquid with meals. Chew properly. Bring your full attention to your food. Rinse and repeat!
#2. Harness the power of gravity.
Do not lie down within two hours of meals and sleep with two pillows. Very simple and very effective.
#3. Say goodbye to pregnancy heartburn-triggering foods.
These (sadly) include:
- Spicy and heavy foods.
- Black tea and coffee (even decaffeinated)
- Tomatoes and chills and all related products
- Peppermint and ginger tea
#4. Snack on almonds throughout the day.
It’s an old wives trick that can be effective for many. A small glass of almond milk can be useful too.
#5. Natural yogurt
Finish your larger meals with natural yogurt. Nothing with extra sugar or flavors ladies.
#6. Stock your home pharmacy with these safe pregnancy herbs.
Slippery elm lozenges are a useful trick to keep in your handbag and next to your bed. This powder comes from the inner bark of an American species of elm. It is soothing, cooling and healing to the tissues of the esophagus as well as being highly nutritious. Make sure to and suck on the lozenge slowly (I like Thayer’s slippery elm lozenges).
Marshmallow & Chamomile
A beautiful soothing combination of herbs for pregnancy heartburn is marshmallow root and chamomile flowers. If heartburn is affecting your sleep, you can also add some skullcap or passionflower.
To a saucepan as:
- 3 teaspoons of marshmallow root
- 3 teaspoons of chamomile
- 3 teaspoons of skullcap or passionflower (if affecting sleep)
- 3 cups of water
Allow to sit overnight. In the morning, bring the saucepan to simmer. Turn off heat and pour the mixture into either a teapot or french press. Allow to stand for 15-20 minutes. Strain and drink throughout the day. You can enjoy this hot or cold. For working women, fill up a glass or stainless steel water bottle to take into work and sip on throughout the day.
This method allows you to extract the most amount of medicine from the plants, if you are short on time, making it as a regular tea will also be beneficial.
If you are experiencing persistent chest pain, please seek medical attention.