Managing Pregnancy Heartburn, Fatigue, Swelling & Cravings

by Stephanie Margolis, R.D.

Heartburn during Pregnancy

Heartburn is the common term for stomach acids backing up into the esophagus causing a burning sensation in the chest region. Most women experience this during the third trimester when the stomach is crowded by the developing baby causing stomach acids to back up. Additionally, the digestive tract moves more slowly in this phase of pregnancy due to a change in hormones. Here are a few tricks to avoid heartburn.

Do not lay down right after eating, this may cause stomach acids to backup.

If you experience heartburn during the night, elevate your head slightly with a few pillows.

Try eating small frequent meals – especially in the third trimester.

Avoid foods such as caffeine, high-fat foods, greasy foods, and highly seasoned foods – these are known to irritate heartburn.

Try making lunch your largest meal so that you are not eating a large meal right before you go to bed.

Swelling during Pregnancy

The swelling that you may experience is due to extra water that is being held in and around your cells. Swelling is commonly seen around the lower legs and ankles.

Do not eliminate water from your daily intake. You actually may need to drink more water to keep your kidneys functioning properly and to help flush out the fluid you are retaining.

Avoid standing for long periods. If you must stand, wear supportive hose of stockings.

Dress comfortably taking special care to avoid tight or restrictive clothing.

You do not have to restrict your salt intake but avoid adding salt to foods – put the salt shaker away.

Also, limit highly processed foods that may be exceptionally high in sodium.

Exercise helps minimize swelling!

Fatigue during Pregnancy

Fatigue is a common symptom of pregnancy as well as new-motherhood. Tiredness is one of the most common complaints during the first trimester. There have also been reported incidences of fatigue when your child becomes a teenager and begins dating.

Fight pregnancy fatigue by eating certain foods and getting enough rest. Try to include protein and carbohydrates at each meal to boost your energy level. Here are some energy boosting foods to try:

Nut butter (one of my favorites is almond butter) on a whole grain bread or bagel.

Whole grain pita bread filled with grilled chicken and your favorite vegetables.

Go back to your childhood and enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich. You can even add tomato or ham to your sandwich.

At snack time, try dried fruit with a side of string cheese.

Fortified cereal and milk are a good bedtime snack.

Add dry granola cereal to your favorite yogurt for a crunchy treat.

Make a smoothie out of your favorite milk and fruit. For an extra boost of protein, scoop 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter in the mix.

Food Aversions and Food Cravings

It may not be as extreme as pickles and ice cream, but most women experience taste changes during their pregnancy. Food aversions, or distastes, may be a result of nausea or they could be completely unexplainable. You should not be too concerned about these aversions as long as you are not eliminating an entire food group. Meat is a common food aversion so you may need to focus on getting your protein from other sources such as dairy or nuts and seeds. The good news is that food distastes may come and go quickly so if you can’t stand the sight of a certain food one day, try it again in a few days.

Food cravings, on the other hand, may lead you to overeating or choosing the wrong foods. Always do your best to fit these food cravings into a nutritionally balanced diet always focusing on balance, variety, and moderation.

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