Is it a heart attack? No. But it is ridiculously painful. Surely this is not just ‘heartburn’?! Until we were pregnant, we never knew that heartburn was actually super painful, could bring us to tears and even interrupt our sleep. Being ‘with child’ has the most wonderful way of showing us things we never knew, like magical nipples that change colour, never ending nausea and dark lines that appear on our bellies.
Heartburn is the presence of stomach acid in the oesophagus. In your first trimester, muscles in your esophagus take longer to push food into the stomach, giving your body an opportunity to absorb nutrients for the foetus. Amazing! But heartburn can be a painful, unwelcome side-effect. Then later in pregnancy, as bub gets bigger, your stomach may get pushed out of its normal position, also leading to heartburn.
In regular circumstances, heartburn can often be managed with diet and lifestyle changes. But of course, having super-strength hormones or an enormous baby wedged in between your organs can make that a bit tricky.
Apparently up to half of all women will experience heartburn when pregnant – that is just cruel! But don’t worry, mum! We’re letting you know that heartburn is indeed manageable and it doesn’t need to ruin your pregnancy mojo. We’ve got some tried and tested remedies for heartburn that you need to try…
Small and slow is key
It’s all too tempting when pregnant to wolf down a full meal…bubba is hungry! But when you’re eating, watch your portion size to ensure you don’t get too full. You might like to try eating smaller meals more frequently. And eating slowly will help minimise heartburn too, as you’re more likely to recognise when you’re full.
After a meal, as much as you may want to, try to not to lay down immediately. Staying upright or even going for a stroll after your meal may help your stomach contents stay put. When your heartburn is at epic levels, it can also help to sleep upright – grab an extra couple of pillows and nod-off with your head and torso elevated. There is also some evidence to suggest that sleeping on your left side can reduce heartburn (although the experts are still not sure why!).
Meet your new best friend: over the counter antacid
After getting the ok from your obstetrician, head to your local pharmacy and speak to the pharmacist about an antacid that is safe to take during pregnancy. Popular brands include Actal, Rennie, Gaviscon and Mylanta. You may respond better to either the liquid form or to the chewable tablets – it can be a process of trial and error before you find the right one for you. During our pregnancy we were huge fans of the antacid chews, like Quick-Eze or Tums but thus far we’ve not been able to track them down physically in Singapore. You may need to add them to your next Amazon or The Corner Store order.
Be mindful of the foods you’re eating
Whilst the evidence on this is patchy, there may be certain foods that flare up heartburn. Common culprits include fizzy drinks, coffee, chocolate, acidic foods like orange juice, tomatoes and vinegar, mint products and fatty foods. As your pregnancy progresses you’ll come to know what your trigger foods are what you need to avoid. Some natural foods are known to soothe inflammation, like ginger and aloe vera, so you might like to up your intake!
Try alternative approaches
As with anything new during pregnancy, you must consult your doctor first. Once they’ve agreed, you could try an alternative approach. During our own third pregnancy, with a trip to Europe scheduled, we had several sessions of acupuncture to quell nausea and heartburn. It wasn’t the panacea we were hoping for, but it definitely took the edge off the unabating symptoms. Practicing relaxation techniques may help too. You could try yoga to help stave off your heartburn and with its benefits far reaching (flexibility, reducing inflammation, mindfulness, anxiety and stress management), it’s definitely worth a shot!
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