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Pregnant with heartburn seeks same

Heartburn (indigestion / acid reflux / dyspepsia) affects a significant number of the population, even more so during pregnancy. Symptoms usually emerge during the second and third trimesters, but can occur at any stage. Oh, the joys!

Heartburn in pregnancy can be mediated by both hormonal and physical changes.

Hormonal changes: natural increases in hormones such as progesterone promote the relaxation of smooth muscles around the uterus, which is important as your baby grows. However, it can also affect smooth muscles elsewhere in the body, such as the lower oesophageal sphincter (the valve separating the stomach from the oesophagus). This laxity allows gastric acid to escape out of the stomach and into the oesophagus, leading to a burning sensation in the chest and throat. It can also slow the rythmic contractions of the stomach, contributing to sluggish digestion.

Physical changes: as pregnancy progresses, your baby starts taking up more and more room in your abdomen, which places strain on the surrounding organs. This also creates less space in your stomach as your diaphragm is pushed upwards, and often contributes to the reflux of gastric acid and partially digested food.

Pregnancy anatomy

See how much room that kid’s taking up!

Happily, there are a number of things you can do for heartburn, here are my top five:

  • Small meals – don’t gorge on large amounts of food in one sitting (no matter how delicious!) and try to slow down while you’re eating. This will help your stomach break down your meal, improving digestion generally and preventing reflux.
  • Sip your drinks, even more so between meals – try not to guzzle large amounts of water or herbal tea in one sitting. Instead, sip on these regularly throughout the day to will help you avoid ‘flooding’ your stomach. Also try to avoid drinking while you’re eating a meal, as this can dilute gastric acid, which will slow down your digestion further.
  • Stay upright – particularly after you’ve just eaten. I know I’m sometimes guilty of lying down almost directly after dinner, particularly in this later stage of pregnancy when I feel tired and preferentially horizontal by evening. However, if you are experiencing heartburn, this is not a good idea as gravity is going to work against you and encourage the backflow of gastric acid. Stay upright, or if you must lie down, do so with your back propped up by several pillows.
  • Recognise (and avoid) foods that trigger heartburn – for some women this will be spicy food, for others chocolate or meat-heavy meals. Not everyone is the same and as such you do not need to avoid a long list of potential triggers. However, be aware of when you react most and aim to avoid those foods as much as possible.
  • Herbal medicines – there are a number herbs that can help significantly with heartburn and are fine to use in pregnancy. As such, your naturopath or herbalist may give you liquid or tablet formulation to improve your symptoms. Alongside this, the regular consumption of herbal teas can and should be included, particularly after a meal; my picks include Peppermint, Ginger, Chamomile and Nettle.

Herbal teaAnother excellent herb for heartburn, and digestion more generally, is Slippery elm. This is a powder than can be taken in a glass of water, or made into easy-as lozenges. Slippery elm lozenges take no time to make at home and travel very well – I will share the recipe with you in my next post so you can make your own.

Have you experienced pregnancy heartburn? What’s worked best for you?

 

Preconception and Pregnancy booklets have arrived!

Grrrreat news! Finally, the print copies of my preconception and pregnancy booklets have hit the clinic!

And soon… oh so soon… the ebooks will be available for download too!

The new website has taken longer than initially planned to finish off… BUT I promise it’ll be worth the wait! We’re looking at it going live in around two weeks, all going well, at which point I’ll be sure to let you know. Not only will there be a beautiful new design to admire, there are also a heap of updates and changes to check out. PLUS you’ll also be able to download Preparing for Parenthood and Natural Pregnancy Care directly.

Watch this space!

Booklet covers

Here they are!

preconception and pregnancy books

… and here’s a sneak peek inside!

I think many people, particularly women who are pregnant or planning to conceive, will find  these an excellent foundation resource.

The first, Preparing for Parenthood, provides information and advice on how to create the best possible foundations for conception and pregnancy. The second, Natural Pregnancy Care, will take you through some of the best ways to support your health naturally, throughout pregnancy.

Pregnancy diary: tales from the first trimester

Even though I’m powering towards the end of my second trimester, I’d like to share some of my experiences from the first, in particular how I managed my health naturopathically.

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The first inkling I had that I was pregnant, apart from the late period of course, was a generally bloated and ‘off’ feeling. I remember wondering aloud if I had gastro, or if.. maybe… I was up the duff? No gastro, as it happens. Good sleuthing me!

Once I’d confirmed I was actually pregnant, it didn’t take long for more symptoms to become apparent. For me, these were: nausea (NOT morning sickness, it lasted day and night), very sluggish digestion, fatigue and a constant need to urinate. As I was still working and studying full time over this period, I had to support my health and calm my symptoms as best I could, while powering through my commitments.

Nausea

I’ve written several times before about my top tips for pregnancy nausea and was happy to find my professional advice proving useful for my own (regular) waves of ill-feeling.

I had to steer clear of anything too bitter or sour, as this stimulated my digestion and turned me green. Almost constant grazing – particularly foods rich in fats and / or complex carbohydrates – worked best for me, as it helped to keep my blood sugar stable and settle my stomach. I’m a big tea drinker anyway, and when I was feeling spewy I found herbal teas particularly beneficial, especially any containing ginger, cinnamon or rooibos.

Cuppa tea, my saviour.

Cuppa tea, my saviour.

I occasionally took carminative herbs (extracts that help settle digestion, particularly eruptive symptoms). However, herbal medicine can have a very strong flavour that, even though it never bothered me before, tended to upset my sensitive stomach!

Sloooooow digestion

By which I mean, of course, constipation. There was also a lot of bloating. Part of this was to do with the huge hormonal changes happening in my body – sluggish digestive function is a common side effect of these. Part of it was also to do with the larger-than-usual volume of food I was consuming in order to keep myself from feeling sick. And it didn’t help that I was doing very little exercise due to significant fatigue.

For a while I was going heavy on the bread, it was all I wanted to eat, which is quite unusual for me. However, as I gradually reduced this, in favour of other carbohydrates that were equally satisfying but richer in nutrients and fibre (e.g. brown rice, quinoa, steamed veggies, nuts, etc) I felt much less bloated and much more, well, regular.

Once again, herbal teas were the hero, not only settling my stomach but also keeping me hydrated, and helping to warm and very gently stimulate my digestion. I also put myself on a short course of probiotics to help my gut adjust to the changes.

Seeing as I was moving my body much less than usual, I focused on regular stretching (particularly twists, which are great for digestion) and low-intensity exercise when I had the energy and time.  All of these measures helped considerably.

Fatigue

I could not believe how tired I felt, up until around week 10/11. How bone weary I was some days. Quite a few times I came home and cried, absolutely bawled, for no reason other than fatigue… I just wanted to sleeeeeep. Luckily I have a very nice husband who tried to get home earlier than me so that I could just roll in the door and eat the dinner he’d prepared, before sending myself to bed at around, oh, 8.30 (latest). Sounds boring and it was, but also necessary. Basically, I rested as much as I possibly could (work and study permitting) and ate as well as I possibly could. It was a good plan.

I also developed mild anaemia in the first couple of months, which didn’t help with energy. So, iron supplementation (alongside my prenatal multi) was an important addition.

Needing to pee

Well, it happens when your kidneys are taking an early pregnancy pounding. You’ve just got to urinate. Often. Very often. There’s not much to do about it apart from stay hydrated (herbal teas to the rescue again!) and accept that this is part of the ‘magic’ of pregnancy.

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All of my experiences were pretty standard for first trimester and it was actually really nice to experience them. You know, I’ve been fascinated with conception, pregnancy and birth for the longest time. I’ve also discussed at length, written and read extensively about pregnancy and pregnancy health as part of my job. So, it’s been amazing to experience these first hand. An inside-view, if you will, that has already added another dimension to my practice. Bonus!

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Finally, this is how far I’d *popped* by week 12… not much compared to my belly now, but I certainly felt much larger at the time!

first trimester bump

Retrospectively, a weensy little bump.

Also pregnant? Similar symptoms?  Or perhaps different / better / worse? What have you found works best for you? 

I recently wrote two books that I think many people, particularly women who are pregnant or planning to conceive, will find an excellent resource. The first, Preparing for Parenthood, provides information and advice on how to create the best possible foundations for conception and pregnancy. The second, Natural Pregnancy Care, will take you through some of the best ways to support your health naturally, throughout pregnancy. These will be available for download in the next couple of weeks and I’m really looking forward to sharing them with everyone. Watch this space!

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