Once the nausea of early pregnancy wanes, many women look forward to enjoying their meals again. However, around the middle of pregnancy, heartburn and indigestion may spoil the party. These discomforts can happen at any time, but are more common in the second and third trimesters. Fortunately, they’re rarely serious and are easily treatable.
What Are Heartburn and Indigestion?
Heartburn — which actually has nothing to do with your heart — is marked by a burning sensation after meals in your throat or in your chest behind the breastbone. It’s caused by stomach acid coming in contact with the esophagus (the pipe your food travels down). A valve at the bottom of that pipe seals off the top of the stomach when you’re not eating, but when valve is overly relaxed, partially digested food and stomach acid sometimes make their way back up into the esophagus, irritating its sensitive lining.
The chief symptom of heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest. You may also experience a sour taste in your mouth or the unpleasant feeling that vomit is rising in your throat.
Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a general term for digestion-related pain or discomfort in the abdomen. Symptoms of indigestion include heartburn, excess gas, bloating, burping, and feeling too full after a normal meal.
Both heartburn and indigestion are common conditions during pregnancy and rarely require medical attention.
What Causes Heartburn and Indigestion during Pregnancy?
When you’re expecting, the hormones coursing through your body make the muscles of the digestive system relax, which slows down digestion. The valve in your esophagus may open or leak, allowing acid from the stomach to flow upward. In addition, as your uterus grows, it pushes against the stomach, increasing pressure on the valve.
The slowdown in digestion can also cause more gas, which is the culprit in flatulence and bloating. Your stomach has less room due to your expanding uterus, and so feels fuller than normal.
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