I have heartburn 24/7. How can I cope? –Jennifer Goldsmith, a mom of one and proposal writer in Reading, PA
Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: You might be eating for two, but the increase in the hormone progesterone during pregnancy ironically slows down digestion. Plus your uterus is crowding out other organs in your abdomen. In at least half of pregnant women, these factors combine to cause that so aptly named condition: heartburn. Here’s what happens: Stomach fluids containing acid and digestive enzymes back up past the valvelike sphincter that separates the stomach from the esophagus, causing pain.
I never had heartburn in my life until I was pregnant. I tried to control it with dietary changes, but the problem was I was starving all of the time. But eating a huge amount of food made the heartburn worse, pushing the food and acids back up, which causes burning and pain. So I ate a lot, but I made myself eat smaller meals, even breaking up one meal into three sessions. I certainly wasn’t denying myself any calories!
I discovered that drinking soft drinks exacerbated my heartburn. Anything with bubbles seemed to stir things up. At one point, I had to swear off even clear sodas like ginger ale.
Also, it might be helpful to break up your food and beverages. We’ve been trained to drink with our meals, but in many cultures they don’t. Drinking with your meals is more of a social thing than a natural one. If you drink too much while you’re eating, you can dilute your digestive enzymes and slow digestion. So it helped ease my heartburn to separate my meals and drinks.
When to call your doctor or midwife: If your heartburn is so severe that you can’t eat or sleep, call your doctor or midwife the next business day. You might need to control it with medication.
–Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, MSEH, a mom of three sons, our resident Mommy MD Guide, and a nationally recognized health expert