Heartburn during pregnancy

Heartburn can be an annoying problem as the baby grows and increasingly presses on your stomach. Here are some useful tips.

Roughly one in two pregnant women experience heartburn and acid reflux.

Heartburn is caused by gastric acid rising into the oesophagus. This happens because your baby is growing and occupying more space, and because the sphincter muscle between the stomach and oesophagus becomes more relaxed during pregnancy. Heartburn causes a stinging, burning sensation and can be especially problematic towards the end of the pregnancy.

Here are some tips for you to try:
• Eat little and often.
• Avoid eating just before going to bed.
• Wholemeal bread and milk can have a soothing effect.
• Other home remedies include eating almonds, yoghurt or bananas and drinking sparking mineral water. Experiment to find what works for you.
• Avoid very spicy or fatty foods, coffee and tea.
• Prop up the head end of your bed or raise your upper body with an extra pillow during the night.
• Heartburn can be aggravated by medicines containing acetylsalicylic acid, ibuprofen or diclofenac. You should generally avoid these medicines during pregnancy, even if you don't have heartburn. If you have to take a painkiller, choose paracetamol.

Medicine can help
As a last resort, try a non-prescription drug for heartburn such as Gaviscon, Samarin or Novalucol. Make sure you get a medicine that is suitable during pregnancy.
Some medicines work by neutralising the gastric acids.

Others create a foam at the top of the stomach that acts as a barrier preventing the acid from rising into the oesophagus. If the problem is extremely severe and persistent, your doctor may offer you a prescription drug.

When should you seek help?
Contact your Primary healthcare centre or maternity clinic if you have unsuccessfully tried different remedies for 2 to 3 weeks.

If you get heartburn combined with severe stomach or chest pain, seek help immediately.

See the article about nausea during pregnancy for more tips.

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