- The hormone relaxin, which relaxes the body joints and connective tissue for an easier delivery, also slows down digestion.
As a result, food stays in the stomach longer and triggers more acid production.
- During pregnancy, the placenta produces the hormone progesterone, which relaxes the smooth muscles of the uterus.
It also relaxes the valve that separates the oesophagus from the stomach, allowing gastric acids to seep back up.
- The growing baby exerts pressure on the stomach and the lower oesophageal sphincter, increasing the chance that acids will be pushed up into the oesophagus.
Tips to follow to keep heartburn under check are:
- Eat small but more meals throughout the day.
Maintaining a proportionate and sensible diet will not only help avoid heartburn but also help in maintaining weight because gaining more than the recommended weight puts more pressure on the abdomen, which can further cause indigestion.
- There are some food items that are more prone to cause heartburns, which should be avoided.
They can range from acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, or greasy or fried foods, spicy foods, to chocolates, coffee and carbonated beverages and alcohol.
- Increase intake of liquids.
Liquid foods move through the stomach more quickly and have lesser chances of being thrown up by the oesophagus. Also, while eating solids, chew them as much as possible to make them gooey and liquid-like before gulping them in.
- Chew gum after eating as it stimulates salivary glands and saliva can help neutralise the acid.
- Do not smoke. In addition to contributing to a host of serious health problems, smoking boosts stomach acidity.
- Do not lie down or go to sleep post a meal. Stay active so that the stomach can get enough time to digest the food.
- Lastly, one can always take recourse to any over-the-counter antacid to ease discomfort, but make sure to check with the doctor first to see if it is safe for use during pregnancy.
Indigestion is yet another common health condition that pregnant women experience. High levels of hormones in early pregnancy relax the muscles throughout the body. This relaxation also slows the digestive processes.
Hence after a meal, women may feel bloated and/or may feel full even when they have not really eaten much.
Simple tips to prevent indigestion are:
- Eat several small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals.
- Sit up straight and wait at least an hour after every meal; avoid lying down or going to sleep immediately.
- Keep foods that can cause or aggravate indigestion away like rich, spicy foods, chocolate, fruit juices and fatty foods.
- Drinks that have caffeine or alcohol are also known to aggravate indigestion.
- Strictly stay away from smoking as smoking relaxes the valve between the stomach and gullet, increasing chances of indigestion and heartburn.
Indigestion is a simple temporary occurrence that does not pose any severe harm to the mother or the baby. They generally subside over a day or two on their own.
However, in cases of severe indigestion or severe irritation antacids can be given to the mother to neutralise stomach acids. But make sure that they are marked safe for use during pregnancy. Contact a doctor if the pain or irritation refuses to subside. Home remedies can be tried as they have fewer side effects.