Pregnancy, Heartburn, and the Hairy Baby
Now that I am in my 26th week of pregnancy, I am experiencing some serious heartburn.
Unlike my previous term pregnancies, I now understand that heartburn means something more than a burning esophagus every time I bend down, drink a cup of tea, or eat an orange. It may also mean that my fetus is growing hair.
According to a Johns Hopkins study published in Birth, there is a correlation between the severity of a pregnant woman's heartburn and the amount of hair her baby has upon birth.
The researchers speculate that the same hormones that cause me to wake up sloshing with digestive fluids may also be the ones that dictate my daughters' hair growth.
Based on the results in my own family, I believe this theory is true.
While pregnant with my first daughter, I had occasional waves of heartburn, like a strange, almost cool sensation that would rise up my esophagus. It was never abjectly uncomfortable, and I didn't require any form of medication or diet change.
My daughter was born with a sprinkling of hair—just a token of dark brown newborn strands that were replaced with blonde curls after a few months.
The pregnancy with my second daughter, however, was characterized by severe heartburn. After every meal, I'd rub my chest and wonder if I was having a heart attack. Even the act of drinking a full glass of water would send my esophagus into acidic overdrive.
All of the spicy and sugary foods that I craved during that pregnancy—Indian, Ethiopian, and steak—made me miserable. If I ate any food in quantity, the result would be surprisingly painful heartburn.
As I sat burping and squirming, people comforted me by telling me that my unborn daughter was sure to have nice hair (apparently, the heartburn-hair connection was an old wives' tale long before the Johns Hopkins research).
Next Page: Whoa! This kid has a lot of hair! [ pagebreak ]The first indication that they were right came from my OB, who checked my dilating cervix the morning that my labor started.
Instead of telling me how many centimeters I had dilated, he said, "Whoa! This kid has a lot of hair!" It was so long, he could feel her hair pushing against my cervix.
When she was born a few hours later, there was an appreciative chorus of: "Whoa, look at that hair!" while I retorted, "I told you I had heartburn!"
Shortly after we brought her home, we had to cut her hair to get it out of her eyes and off the back of her neck. While she nursed, I experienced the unexpected sensation of running my fingers through my newborn baby's thick black hair. Who knew there would be such a soft, fluffy payoff for all of that digestive discomfort?
As it turns out, I'm not alone in my suffering.
Health magazine's senior food and nutrition editor Frances Largeman-Roth is living with heartburn in her ninth month of pregnancy. She posted an enlightening food diary, which includes "lots of Tums," of course. (We'll have to check back in and find out how much hair her baby has, too.)
Babycenter lists other solutions to pregnancy heartburn. But ultimately it seems that every woman's solution is different. Custard may be a magical remedy for one mom, and an invitation to disaster for another.
Certain activities exacerbate heartburn symptoms, such as picking up around the house and bending down. As a mother of two little kids, my whole life is one big forward bend, so I'm bearing with it for now.
For the severe symptoms I've experienced, my doctor suggested I take over-the-counter Pepcid AC. In the meantime, though, I'm stocking up on barrettes.