What Causes Third Trimester Heartburn?

Heartburn is one of the most common discomforts of pregnancy.  Heartburn is common throughout pregnancy, although it is the most common during the third trimester of pregnancy.  The good news is that heartburn does not typically indicate a more serious problem.  The bad news is that heartburn can be very uncomfortable, or even painful. 

To understand what causes third trimester heartburn, it is important to understand exactly what heartburn is.  Heartburn is also known as gastroesophageal reflux, or sometimes called acid reflux or just reflux.  Heartburn occurs when stomach acid, or food that has been down in your stomach that may have stomach acid in it, comes up toward your esophagus.  When this stomach acid reaches the chest, it feels like a burning sensation.  This sensation may occur in your breastbone area or as a feeling that comes up from your stomach and rises towards your breastbone.  In some cases, gastroesophageal reflux may even make you have a taste in your mouth that is sour, or to feel like there is vomit in your throat.

Heartburn occurs when the valve at the bottom of the esophagus, which normally keeps stomach acid down in the stomach, relaxes.  There are several things that can cause this valve to relax.  These may include certain medications, foods that are fatty or greasy, caffeine, spicy foods, or eating a large meal.

During the third trimester of pregnancy, the hormones in your body may relax the muscles in your digestive tract.  This includes the muscles that control the valve at the bottom of your esophagus.  If this valve relaxes, heartburn that can occur.  In addition, the pressure of your baby on your digestive tract may force food up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.

In addition, these hormonal changes may cause food to digest more slowly, which may lead to indigestion or a bloated feeling.

While you may be more prone to heartburn during the third trimester of pregnancy, there are some things that you can do to minimize its effect.  You should eat small, regular meals.  You should make sure that you chew your food fully.  Eat slowly, and try to avoid lying down for about an hour after eating.



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