Heartburn during pregnancy is very common, yet usually an easily treatable condition with natural medicine. It can occur at any stage but is most common during the second half of pregnancy.

What is it?

Heartburn (also known as acid reflux, indigestion, or gastroesophageal reflux disease – GERD) is a burning sensation in the oesophagus and can have a number of different associated symptoms, such as a burning sensation in the chest and throat and a sour, acidic taste.

Why does it happen?

Both hormonal and physical changes both contribute to symptoms of heartburn in pregnancy. During pregnancy, the placenta produces the hormone progesterone which relaxes smooth muscles, it also relaxes the lower stomach valve which usually prevents acid from entering the oesophagus. FYI: this progesterone is the hormone which also contributes to constipation in pregnancy.

As your baby grows larger and takes up more space in your abdomen, the stomach organ is pushed upwards, which can force stomach acid up into the oesophagus, causing that unpleasant burning sensations.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, heartburn is due to the changes happening on the Stomach meridian and organ system. Qi can move in any direction; up, down, contracting or expanding.

The energy of your precious foetus, can impact the stomach channel which sends the stomach Qi upwards. In Chinese medicine this is referred to as Rebellious Stomach Qi or Counterflow Stomach Qi.

7 Tips to reduce heartburn:

1. Don't go to bed full; try to digest food for 2-3 hours before lying down. This prevents the stomach acid from entering the oesophagus.

2. Sleep with your upper body elevated with several pillows. This will allow gravity to do its work and keep stomach acid where it belongs.

3. Try to sit up straight, as this puts less pressure on the stomach, preventing the acid from rising.

4. Eat smaller meals more often, this will put less pressure on the stomach. Also try to eat your food slowly, as just about any food will cause acid reflux if too much is eaten too fast.

5. Avoid coffee, tomatoes, spicy food, fried foods and reduce fluid intake while eating.

6. Fresh ginger is an ancient remedy for heartburn and nausea. It has a descending action so will tell the Rebellious Stomach Qi to descend. Try adding some freshly grated ginger into your tea or in your cooking.

7. Acupressure and acupuncture are both safe to use during your pregnancy and can give you immediate and long lasting relief from these symptoms. The acupuncture point Stomach 44 is located in the web between the 2nd and 3rd toes (refer to pic). It is the fire point on the Stomach channel and helps to bring the 'Rebellious Stomach Qi' descend. If you want to try some acupressure, press one or both of the points for 3-5 minutes. If the point is too awkward to reach, ask a friend or partner to help you out. You can press on this point several times a day or night.

Good luck and congratulations!