There’s all sorts of symptoms pregnant women get (it’s kinda depressing to think about how many) but one of the symptoms that seem universal is heartburn.
I had heartburn so bad my first trimester I had to go on medication. I thank God I had a high-risk OB who was in the know about the topic because my regular doctor said, “Just take Tums.”
Um…excuse me, kind Sir, but that would be like pissing on a forest fire. Completely ineffective and painful as HELL.
When I went for the monthly check-up with Dr. Asrat (the high-risk doc I’d like to build a shrine to) he asked me how things were going. I told him I’d been waking up with choking heartburn, where the acid literally backed up into my throat.
I’d have to walk around my house for about an hour and a half before I could go back to bed or I’d start choking again. It was terrifying.
I was afraid to take too many Tums and the only other piece of advice I’d been given was, “Don’t eat within 6 hours of the time you plan to go to bed.”
Are you kidding me?? You want a pregnant woman to go 14 hours without food? In my humble opinion, this is a great way to ensure that more women get morning sickness by waking up starving, with nothing but a bunch of hormones on their stomachs.
It’s always amazed me what people are willing to say to pregnant women. Way to kick the worried, hormonal gals when they’re down.
What are pregnant women allowed to take for heartburn?
Dr. Asrat not only gave me a plan to stop the heartburn, he told me why women get it. I’m going to share all that with you.
During that visit, he told me to start taking Pepcid AC. He recommended I try it for 3 weeks. If it did nothing to stop the choking heartburn, he would give me a prescription for Protonix, which has also been put on the safe list for pregnancy. Protonix helped save my pregnant sanity.
I never woke up choking on stomach acid again.
Note: You should stop taking Protonix when your baby’s born if you plan to breastfeed.
What else have I heard about for soothing heartburn?
Many women swear by papaya and papaya enzyme, BUT there’s a caveat to this. While papaya is an excellent source of vitamin C and many other nutrients, it MUST be very ripe. There is a substance called Papain, found in an unripe papaya’s latex and leaves, that can cause uterine contractions.
If you are in a high-worry pregnancy anyway, you might want to keep papaya off your list. The papaya enzymes sold in health food stores come from ripe papaya, but I’ll leave this decision to you. Click here for a great article on the papaya issue.
WHY do pregnant women get such bad heartburn?
Dr. Asrat explained this very simply. During pregnancy, women secrete TEN TIMES their normal amount of a hormone called Relaxin.
Relaxin is a force that does both good and evil.
On the “pro” side…
This hormone relaxes the muscles, joints and ligaments in the pelvis so that a baby can pass through the birth canal. Relaxin keeps us from dying in childbirth. That’s some great stuff.
I was so flexible and loose-jointed during pregnancy that my shoulders would literally collapse while I laid down, then click back into place as a stood up. It used to creep my husband out but I’ve heard it’s normal.
The downer side of Relaxin:
This abnormal motion in so many joints of the body can cause inflammation and pain. Here is an article about Relaxin and back pain. Dr. Asrat explained that Relaxin also softens the muscles of the esophagus and the valve at the top of the stomach, causing heartburn.
Normally there is a positive pressure downward, that holds the small, muscular flap (hiatal valve) at the top of your stomach closed. During pregnancy, this pressure softens and goes negative, allowing the valve to open and for acid to come up into the esophagus. Ouch.
What other pregnancy-related changes cause indigestion?
- The pressure of a growing uterus on a pregnant mom’s stomach worsens indigestion.
- Pregnancy hormones slow down the rate at which your stomach processes food.
What can YOU do to fight the effects of heartburn and indigestion?
- Try eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. This will help your stomach to process food more easily and will reduce bloating.
- Avoid spicy or fried foods, which can trigger heartburn (although I’ve heard from several friends that they CRAVED these foods).
- Yes, it does reduce heartburn to avoid eating before you go to bed. I leave this up to your discretion.
- Sleep propped up on a lot of pillows.
- If your indigestion just won’t go away, do what I did and talk to your doctor about an antacid that is safe to take during pregnancy.
Do you have any heartburn remedies to share? Was heartburn a part of pregnancy for your or your pregnancy partner? I’d love to hear about your experience.