Perhaps you've never before experienced the discomfort of heartburn — but now that you're pregnant, it's a common and very uncomfortable occurrence. What gives?
"Many women who normally do not suffer from heartburn will experience it frequently in pregnancy due to the normal physical and hormonal changes," Dr. Lucky Sekhon, ob-gyn, reproductive endocrinologist, and infertility specialist, says.
Here's exactly what's going on in the body to kick heartburn into gear.
During pregnancy, progesterone levels are high. Dr. Sekhon explains that this progesterone is responsible for a relaxing effect on the sphincter, "which constricts at the bottom of the bottom of the esophagus (the tube that transports food from the throat to the stomach) to prevent reflux of food and acid from the stomach."
This relaxation effect of the sphincter coupled with increased pressure on the abdomen and stomach as the uterus grows, can cause heartburn during pregnancy.
"It can be common during all trimesters but particularly worse as the uterus grows and places more upward pressure on the stomach and esophagus, especially when a pregnant woman is laying flat," Dr. Sekhon adds.
There are some things you can do to safely relieve the aggravation, though. Dr. Sekhon says that certain foods — like spicy, fried foods, and foods high in acidity — have the potential to make heartburn worse. It might be helpful to identify these foods and ask your doctor for advice on limiting or avoiding them in your diet.
You can also address pregnancy heartburn by eating smaller meals and avoiding lying down flat for 30-60 minutes after eating.
If those measures aren't enough of a remedy, Dr. Sekhon says you can safely use antacids — but be sure to check in with your doctor to get the green light and product approval.