Pregnant women can experience nausea and vomiting, or morning sickness during the first trimester, while the second and the third trimester can be accompanied by gas, bloating, indigestion, and heartburn. Both heartburn and indigestion can be a really troubling experience for pregnant women, which are mainly caused by the fluctuating levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Heartburn and Indigestion in Pregnant Women
Indigestion or dyspepsia is the condition that causes gas, bloating, and nausea. The pregnancy hormones relax the muscles of the digestive tract, which in turn, slows down the entire process of digestion. This gives an opportunity to the intestinal bacteria to ferment the semi- or undigested food, causing gas, belching, and flatulence.
Along with the muscles of the digestive tract, the pregnancy hormones also relax the esophageal sphincter, the circular muscle that prevents the backflow of stomach content (food and stomach acid) to the esophagus. The relaxation of this muscle during pregnancy can push back the stomach content to the esophagus causing heartburn. This condition can be further aggravated by factors like the consumption of a large meal and fatty food, chocolates, onions, garlic, and coffee.
Symptoms of Indigestion in Pregnant Women
Indigestion can produce some really uncomfortable symptoms, such as:
- Pain and a sensation of fullness in the upper abdominal region
- Gas and bloating
- A burning sensation and pain in the chest, or just behind the breastbone
- Burning sensation in the throat
- Loss of Appetite
- Difficulty in swallowing food
The best way to manage this condition during pregnancy is keep a close watch over the kind of food you consume. It is better to avoid certain food like spicy and highly acidic food, fatty food, chocolates, and caffeinated beverages. Do not lie down immediately after eating a meal, and eat frequent smaller meals instead of consuming three large meals in a day.
Alcohol consumption should be reduced or stopped altogether during pregnancy. Pregnant women should drink plenty of water, and follow a fiber-rich diet. Regular physical activity can also help control the symptoms of indigestion. To manage the uncomfortable burning sensation produced by heartburn, try to lie down with your head and back slightly elevated. This is an effective way to keep the food and acid within the stomach, or prevent their backflow to the esophagus.
If heartburn and indigestion symptoms become annoying, then you may need to take some medications. The most common medications used for indigestion are antacids. However, the prolonged use of antacids can cause certain adverse effects, for which they should be taken under the supervision of a physician. Certain home remedies like chamomile tea, lemon balm, papaya, and peppermint tea can help reduce the symptoms of this condition. However, before taking any herbal remedy, be sure to talk to your physician, as certain herbs need to be avoided during pregnancy.
If the condition persists or worsens even after taking all possible preventive and precautionary measures, then it is better to consult a physician. If heartburn is very severe in nature, and it produces some serious symptoms like black stool, weight loss, and severe chest pain, then talk to your health care provider at the earliest.