Heartburn is the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus and sometimes even the mouth. We also refer to this as "reflux" or Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
The stomach acid irritates the mucous membrane and the vocal chords. As the name suggests, many sufferers therefore feel a burning sensation behind the breastbone, which is sometimes accompanied by acidic burping and an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
However, some people experience heartburn in the form of a sore throat, hoarseness, or coughing, so it can sometimes be mistaken for a cold. Pressure in the upper abdomen and difficulty swallowing can also be a sign.
The hormonal changes during pregnancy favor the occurrence of heartburn. The progesterone level rises and relaxes the smooth muscles (such as blood vessels, organs of the digestive system and respiratory tract). This also affects the sphincter muscle between the stomach and the esophagus. A woman's digestion is also slower during pregnancy. The stomach doesn't empty as quickly as usual. Together, these factors mean that reflux occurs more easily.
Heartburn is one of the most common pregnancy complaints – up to 45% of pregnant women are affected.
Aside from the physical changes, the growing baby bump or the expanding uterus also press on the internal organs, including the stomach and intestines.
It is a good idea to think about your food and drink choices, and to avoid "extremes" (e.g., greasy, sugary, acidic, spicy). Try to avoid:
There are some home remedies that can relieve or prevent heartburn. But before you try these, be sure to talk to your doctor about what is best for you. The following may help:
It may also be helpful to adopt a special position when sleeping:
• Lying on your left side
• Elevating the upper body with pillows
Over-the-counter remedies for heartburn are also available from drugstores. However, these should never be taken without a doctor's prescription. Heartburn during pregnancy is usually harmless and does not generally damage the baby, but the reason should be investigated in order to find the right remedy for you.