Heartburn, more formally known as acid reflux is when the acid that is normally in your stomach backs up into your esophagus. It's super common in pregnancy due to hormonal changes that affect the digestive system, and also increasing pressure from the growing “BELLY” on your pregnant stomach. Thus it usually gets worse as the pregnancy progresses.
Symptoms of Heartburn
While it might sound obvious, heartburn isn't always just a burning in your throat – and if you've never experienced it – you my wonder what's going on.
Symptoms of acid reflux include:
- A burning in your chest or throat
- An acidic taste in your mouth
- A gnawing sensation in your stomach
- A hoarse voice
- A cough
Do You Need Testing?
Tests are not usually needed as it is a common problem and generally obvious. However, if you are pregnant and having chest pain, it's important to let your midwife or doctor know right away.
Typical medical treatments include antacids, histamine blockers, and proton pump inhibitors. While these are generally safe for short-term use, taken over the course of weeks they can interfere with nutrient absorption and have other side effects. Many women would rather try practical and natural approaches before taking the medications for heartburn in pregnancy.
Here are 5 safe and easy tips I use as a midwife and doctor. (Yup, I'm both!)
Simple, Natural Approaches to Heartburn in Pregnancy
Slippery elm is a gentle, safe herb made mostly of a type of carbohydrate that turns slippery when wet – hence the name. Slippery elm helps to coat the lining of the esophagus and stomach, easing acid, and healing the tissue. The easiest way is to use it is to purchase Thayer Slippery Elm lozenges from a natural foods store. They are totally safe in pregnancy. Dose: 2-4 at a time, repeat as needed. They can be taken right before sleep.
Marshmallow root is another herb that gets slippery when wet. It is excellent in the treatment of prenatal reflux. You have to purchase the herb in bulk form and make tea, or you can take capsules. Dose 1 cup of tea twice daily. To prepare, steep 1TBS of the chopped root in 1 cup of water for 30 minutes, then drink. Or take 2 capsules 2-4 times daily.
Melatonin helps to tone the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) can be taken safely up to 0.3 mg before bed during pregnancy – and it may help with sleep, too!
Raw Almonds: Almonds help to tone the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscular gateway between the esophagus and the stomach, keeping stomach acid in its proper place! Chew 8 or 10 raw, unroasted, unsalted almonds daily.
Avoid Food Triggers
- Make it a point to eat at least three hours before bed.
- Avoid tomatoes, spicy foods, sodas, and coffee, especially at dinner time.
- Avoid mint: Mint relaxes the LES letting stomach acid seep upward where it causes havoc, so avoid foods with mint, and mint tea (especially peppermint, which is the strongest; spearmint might be tolerated if it's in your pregnancy herbal tea). Aromatherapy use is fine.
Sleep Propped Up: Use several pillows to poup on several pillows to create an angle of at least 45 degrees between your head and your bed to reduce reflux..
Wishing you a joyous and comfortable pregnancy!