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  What Causes Heartburn in Pregnancy?

Heartburn or acid reflux is quite common nowadays, especially women who are under the throes of pregnancy. It’s true that those who suffer from acid reflux symptoms may encounter problems if left unchecked; pregnant women, however, who experience this for the first time, need not worry.

what causes heartburn in pregnancyMedical studies show that it is quite normal for pregnant women to experience heartburn symptoms from time to time and is totally harmless, except for the fact that it can be quite uncomfortable.

Heartburns in pregnant women can come in 2 forms. One is the usual mild burning sensation originating from the chest that travels up to your throat. The second one is a lump-like sensation in the chest area which is the build-up of acid in your stomach that is pushing through the valve in your lower esophageal tract.

Also, acid reflux is normally attributed to external factors, like the food we eat, unhealthy habits, or weight problems. However, pregnant women’s heartburn is a natural result of their condition.

Heartburn in Pregnancy is Natural

Causes of heartburn in pregnancy are deeply rooted to the body’s reaction in bearing a child. There are 2 major factors involved that causes this problem – hormones and the growing size of your child.

1. Hormones - Progesterone

Heartburn in pregnant women is caused by a hormone called progesterone that is produced when a woman is either in their menstrual cycle or under the throes of pregnancy (gestation).

Progesterone or P4 (pregn-4-ene-3,20-dione) relaxes the smooth muscles in the woman’s body, specifically the smooth muscles found in the intestines and the valve that separates the esophagus from your stomach – the latter being the culprit that causes heartburns to happen.

The esophageal sphincter (LES) is the valve found on the lower tract of the esophagus that stops the acid in your stomach from entering. Progesterone weakens the muscles of the LES to the point that it allows backflow of acid from the stomach, thus, giving you heartburn or acid reflux. In addition, pregnant women will not be experiencing heartburns everyday.

Also, progesterone slows down the digestion rate. That is why a lot of pregnant women tend to eat less than they normally do. More solids in the stomach would normally result to more acid being produced. This is why it is advisable for pregnant women to eat less during meals, especially when you’re already in the later stage of pregnancy.

2. Growth

Of course, the growth of your unborn child is also the cause of heartburns. The size of your unborn child will eventually crowd your stomach cavity, pushing the organs upward that will inadvertently squeeze your stomach, pushing acid up towards your esophagus despite the presence of LES. It would also be safe to note that women who are in their late pregnancy will suffer more heartburns as their child continue to grow.

Alleviating Heartburns

There are plenty of ways for pregnant women to counteract this problem. It is somewhat worrisome that some doctors tend to recommend the use of antacids to counter this problem, though it works, may cause problem with the fetus due to the presence of chemicals.

In most cases, heartburns in women are unavoidable if you’re in the later stage of pregnancy. However, there are steps that you can do in order to possibly get rid of the problem or to minimize the discomfort that comes with it.

For starters, pregnant women should watch what they eat. Due to the size of your baby and the progesterone slowing down your digestion rate, it is advisable to eat less during meal times, thus avoiding the overproduction of acid in your stomach.

Also, it is advisable to stay away from habits that might trigger acid reflux, like smoking, drinking alcohol, eating spicy food, coffee, chocolate, and other acid and fatty foods. These might also have adverse effect on the baby so it is safe to shy away from these.