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Heartburn and Constipation in Pregnancy

Pregnancy only lasts nine months and you want to try to enjoy to every moment because they do fly by very fast.  In fact, you should plan to take photos of yourself and try to get out and about and experience the world as a pregnant woman.  However, one of the things people don’t often explain to you about pregnancy until you’re already pregnant is that it is filled with various day to day ailments that can often seem like they’re robbing your of your joyful experience.

Some of those ailments include heartburn and constipation.  While many healthcare providers will tell you that your second trimester is when you will experience these things, many women experience these ailments all throughout the pregnancy.  Having a basic understanding of what causes heartburn and constipation and tips on how to prevent it should help you get through those months a little easier.

Heartburn is caused by the build up of stomach acids that come into the throat and create that burning sensation.  In pregnancy, this is usually caused by body changes and the fact that the baby pushes up on your stomach causes it to rush back up into your esophagus.  Below are some tips you can follow in order to prevent heartburn:

• Eat small meals and eat them often.
• Eat and drink very slowly.
• Drink fluids an hour after having a meal, but if you need to drink with a meal just keep it to tiny sips.
• Eat less fried and fatty foods.  Ice cream, pizza, chips, sausage, pastries, etc can all cause heartburn so keep them to a minimum.
• Take an antacid tablet with calcium if you think you will consume something spicy or some other food that will cause heartburn.  Some brands that are safe in pregnancy include Rolaids and Tums.  Buy the chewable tablets so you can carry them around with you and take them to work easily.
• Drink less coffee and soda.  These beverages often have caffeine in them and caffeine causes heartburn.
• Be aware of other foods that cause heartburn like chocolate, spearmint, etc.
• Wearing loose fitting clothing will help your stomach from feeling squeezed which often causes those stomach acids to travel back up towards your chest.
• Don’t lie down immediately after a meal.
• Limit stress and situations that cause stress.  Stress causes your whole body to be irritated and jumpy which can lead to heartburn.  Just try to relax as often as possible.

Constipation, or hard and dry stools, is usually caused by the normal body changes that happen during pregnancy.  Unless you have blood in your stools, you can ease constipation without taking medication by doing the following:

• Eat more fiber rich foods every single day
• Eat lots of fruits and vegetables every day.  Ideal range of fruits is around 2 servings and vegetables at least 3.
• Eat raw carrots, broccoli, apples, or other easy carrying foods to snack on throughout the day.
• Try to eat high fiber cereals and breads.
• Drink at least 8 glasses of fluids each day.  
• This includes your milk, juice, and of course water.  Soda doesn’t clear the system like these other beverages so don’t include a can of soda into your 8 glasses of fluids.  
• Preferably 4 glasses will be with water.
• 1-2 glasses of 100% juice.
• 2-3 cups of skim milk.  The reason I say skim milk is because it is generally healthier for a pregnancy AND some women get constipated with the fattier kinds of cow’s milk.
• Limit coffee and tea due to the caffeine.
• Try to be active if your healthcare provider thinks it’s a good idea.  
• Walking, swimming, and riding a stationary bike are activities that help with circulation.
• Being active also helps keep things moving around so you should always feel light on your feet.  Well, at least until the last trimester.
• Do these activities for no longer than 30 minutes each day as you do not want to have the undesired effect of losing weight during a pregnancy.
• Always use the bathroom right away if you feel you have to.  Getting backed up down there can cause constipation.
The best thing about all this advice on heartburn and constipation is that you should be doing all these things anyway.  Between eating lots of fruits and vegetables and avoiding fried foods not only will you have a healthier pregnancy but if you keep the habits up postpartum you are likely to feel more energized. 

If all of the above things do not naturally help you reduce the heartburn or constipation you may be experiencing, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider soon.  They can provide you with a safe stool softener or strong heartburn medicine that has been proven effective and safe during pregnancy.
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