Managing your heartburn

Common occurrences that appear in pregnancy are heartburn and acid reflux, which affect 40 to 85% of all expectant moms, and about 52% will have symptoms appearing in the first trimester. Heartburn may last your entire pregnancy, possibly worsening in your second and third trimesters. Managing your heartburn is important for your quality of life as a mom-to-be, especially since it can aggravate other symptoms like nausea or vomiting.

Pregnancy-related heartburn is caused by changes in hormonal levels. Food travels more slowly from the esophagus to the stomach. Your stomach, in turn, takes longer to digest the food. This slowdown in the digestive process gives your body extra time to absorb nutrients, both for yourself and your growing baby. Additionally, your esophageal sphincter (the gatekeeper between your esophagus and stomach) may weaken, allowing for acid reflux.

All of this leads to that telltale burning sensation or feeling of pressure in your chest. Here are some safe ways to cut the discomfort.

1. Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Grazing every one to two hours, as well as adding protein to each snack and meal seems to cause less digestive upset. Also, keep liquids and solids separate and avoid eating before bedtime.

2. Avoid pop, fried foods and spicy dishes. These can exacerbate the problem.

3. Water down your juice. Acidic juices—especially OJ and other citrus—can also worsen heartburn. Love juice? Try a cocktail made from 50-50 juice and non-carbonated water instead.

4. Try a safe over-the-counter antacid/heartburn medication. Motherisk (a research program providing prenatal and infant health information at the Hospital For Sick Children, in Toronto), recommends products labelled “No Sodium” or “Sodium-Free.”

Calcium carbonate (Tums, Rolaids), aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide products (Maalox), alginic compound (Gaviscon) and histamine 2 blockers (Zantac, Pepcid) are all safe to treat heartburn symptoms during pregnancy, according to Motherisk.

Rainitidine ( Zantac) and famotodine (Pepcid AC) are both medications that help prevent heartburn for 12 to 24 hours, and according to Motherisk are also safe during pregnancy.

5. See your doctor or Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist. If these tips don’t help relieve your conditions, or if you have pre-existing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), talk with your doctor and pharmacist about prescription acid-suppressing drugs that can help relieve the worst of your symptoms, and which are safe to take during pregnancy.