Heartburn is a burning sensation located in the center of the chest or the upper stomach area. It is caused by progesterone relaxing the muscle that controls the opening at the top of the stomach. This hormone also causes the stomach to empty more slowly. Also the stomach is pressed upwards by the growing baby and as a result, does not function as well. Stress tends to worsen heartburn. Heartburn is usually most noticeable during the last three months of pregnancy, but can occur throughout pregnancy.
- Avoid foods that are fatty or greasy. Foods that are too acid or too spicy may also bother you. Eliminate from your diet any food that causes discomfort. Stay away from carbonated drinks, processed meats and junk foods.
- It is crucial to eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly so all the enzymes present in the saliva get a chance to work. Some health experts suggest chewing each bite 50 to 70 times. Then, by the time your food mixed with enzymes reaches the lower part of the stomach, up to 40 percent of your food will be pre-digested.
- Avoid going a long time between meals. Instead, eat more frequently, at least three meals and three healthy snacks a day. Do not eat after eight at night.
- Avoid drinking water or other fluids during your meals. It is best to drink fluids between meals. Otherwise the fluids dilute your digestive enzymes and make them less efficient at breaking down your food.
- Coffee, tea and cigarettes can increase heartburn, and should be avoided as much as possible.
- Sleep propped up with lots of pillows at night. It may help to elevate the head of the bed using blocks.
- Do not jump up from the table to serve. Let others do the dishes after supper while you sit and relax.
- Avoid using antacids that contain aluminum or bicarbonate of soda. These can interfere with absorption of certain nutrients, upset your acid base balance, and possibly harm the fetus. Calcium in the form of pills, powder or liquid is a natural antacid and can be used in doses of up to 1,200mg per day. Magnesium should always be taken with calcium at about half the dosage of the calcium.
- One teaspoon of slippery elm bark powder mixed with honey or hot water neutralizes stomach acidity and soothes the stomach. Also slippery elm powder can be taken in powdered form in OO gelatin capsules, two capsules one to three times a day. Slippery elm throat lozenges sold in most health food stores may also be helpful. These can be sucked on throughout the day.
- Eat papaya after meals in the form of the fresh fruit, juice, or tablets from the health food store. You can also buy digestive enzymes at the health food store and take them with every meal.
- When you travel, you can carry raw almonds, and chew on them slowly to help relieve heartburn.
In the first three months of your pregnancy, you may experience nausea and sometimes vomiting. By 16 to 20 weeks of pregnancy, the nausea usually begins to taper off.
Pregnant women sometimes worry about the harmful effects of the nausea and vomiting on their baby. Recent studies show that women who are healthy when their baby is conceived, have enough reserves to supply the growing fetus, even if they eat little in the first two or three months of pregnancy. Another study showed that the presence of nausea and vomiting rather than their absence was more likely associated with a favourable outcome of the pregnancy.
Women should not feel guilty because the nausea and vomiting is not abnormal and nor is it a sign of unconscious rejection of the baby as some have claimed.
Karen, a healthy thirty year old mother of two daughters, developed severe nausea and vomiting with her third pregnancy. At one point, she could not even keep water down, and I was about to admit her to hospital and put her on intravenous fluids. As a last resort, I had her try slippery elm gruel and it worked. She got over her vomiting, and went on to have an easy, uncomplicated delivery of her son.