People often say, " Experiencing heartburn during your pregnancy means your baby will be born with a lot of hair!" Surprising right? We know that pregnancy is a beautiful journey full of excitement and challenges, but sometimes, it brings unwanted visitors along the way—one of them being heartburn. Like many other soon-to-be-moms, you might also feel the burning and discomfort inside you. And let's be practical– it's not an easy path to walk on.

Let's learn about why heartburn is so common during pregnancy and how to deal with it.

Heartburn or Acid Reflux During Pregnancy: What is It?

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) says that around 20% of people in the United States experience serious acid reflux during pregnancy.

Even though it is called "heartburn," your heart is not literally burning. It's more like this uncomfortable feeling that starts behind your breastbone and travels up to your neck and throat. This is officially termed "gastroesophageal,” or “acid reflux” which means that the foods and liquids inside your stomach decide to return to the esophagus (a tube connecting your mouth to the stomach that allows food to travel down).

During pregnancy, it's pretty normal to have this because of hormonal changes. Also, the baby growing inside you puts pressure on your stomach, pushing food back up into the esophagus.

What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy heartburn majorly occurs due to the following reasons:

Hormonal Changes

The hormones in your body shift during pregnancy, affecting the natural tendency to handle and digest food. These hormones can slow down your digestion, making food move more slowly and causing bloating and heartburn.

Relaxing Esophageal Sphincter

The pregnancy hormone, progesterone, can make the lower esophageal sphincter relax. When it loosens up, stomach acid has the chance to move up into the esophagus, leading to heartburn.

Enlargement of Uterus

While your baby is growing, your uterus is getting bigger too. This expansion can squeeze your stomach and push stomach acids upward, into the esophagus. That's why heartburn tends to happen more in the last few months of pregnancy when the baby and uterus are at their largest, taking up more space in your belly.

Symptoms of Heartburn When You Are Pregnant

When you have indigestion or heartburn, you might feel:

  • A burning or painful feeling in your chest
  • Your stomach feels full, heavy, or bloated
  • Burping
  • Nauseous
  • Throwing up food back

These feelings usually show up just after you eat or drink. You could experience these symptoms at any time during your pregnancy, but they tend to happen more often from around 12 weeks onward.

How to Deal with Pregnancy Heartburn?

If you have mild symptoms of heartburn or indigestion, a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can be really helpful.

1. Watch What You Eat

Avoid overeating during pregnancy. You might crave a lot of things but eating smaller, frequent meals not only helps in easy digestion but is also good for you and your baby.

Don't eat just before going to bed, and sit up straight while eating to ease stomach pressure. Cutting back on rich, spicy, or fatty foods, and also caffeine, can make a huge difference.

2. Sleeping Tips

To avoid stomach acid from coming up, raise your head and shoulders while sleeping when pregnant. Professionals highly recommend side sleeping as an effective way to deal with heartburn.

3. Sleeping Tips

Smoking relaxes the muscle that keeps stomach acid down, leading to acid reflux and causing severe indigestion. It is equally harmful to your baby. Quitting smoking also lowers the risk of low birth weight, premature birth, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

4. Avoid Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can trigger indigestion and harm your baby during pregnancy. It's safest not to drink any alcohol at all while pregnant.

How Can I Prevent Heartburn During My Pregnancy

Preventing heartburn is like stopping a fire before it starts, and knowing the common triggers can help. Being pregnant itself can make heartburn worse.

While you can't stop it completely, you can do a few things to prevent heartburn when pregnant:

  • Skip the post-meal nap. Instead, consider taking some rest in an upright recliner to avoid heartburn.
  • To avoid nighttime heartburn, try sleeping on your side. Side sleeper pillows or pregnancy body pillows work best in this condition. And when speaking of pillows what's better than Eli & Elm.
  • Don't eat anything within three hours of bedtime.
  • Oily and spicy snacks might not be worth the pain. Opt for healthier choices to prevent heartburn and ensure you and your baby get the right nutrients.
  • Your belly prefers smaller meals throughout the day rather than a big feast. Take your time with those small meals to avoid the risk of acid reflux.
  • Tight outfits aren't friendly to your stomach. Choose breathable fabrics and supportive yet comfortable clothing.

Home Remedies to Treat Pregnancy Heartburn

Here are some safe and effective ways to tackle these heartburns:

  • Grab yourself some yogurt – its probiotics and soothing texture can help calm down heartburn, or at least give you some relief.
  • Mix a tablespoon of honey in warm milk. The American Pregnancy Association suggests this combo might be just what you need to neutralize acid-causing heartburn.
  • Munch on a handful of almonds. Their lower acidity level compared to other nuts could bring you some heartburn relief.
  • Ginger, known for its soothing qualities for upset stomachs, can also help fight off heartburn. It reduces inflammation and prevents stomach acid from moving up the esophagus.
  • Chew sugar-free gum. Research suggests that chewing gum for 30 minutes after a meal can reduce acid reflux and soothe heartburn.
  • If nothing else works, consult your doctor or a medical professional for help. Certain medications are considered safe for pregnancy heartburn relief but always get the prescribed ones.

Remember, not every tip may work for everyone, so take your time to try them out during your nine-month-long journey and find what brings you relief.

Right Time to Get Medical Help for Heartburn When Pregnant

Right Time to Get Medical Help for Heartburn When Pregnant

If your symptoms tend to continue or changes in your diet and lifestyle don't help, talk to your doctor instantly. They might suggest medicine to ease your symptoms.

Also, seek the help of a medical professional if you experience:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • A persistent or recurring cough
  • Swollen glands on both sides of your neck
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain or swelling in your stomach

The Bottom Line

Heartburn during pregnancy is super common, especially in the later months. But here the tips and tricks will help you keep it at bay or ease it.

Managing heartburn can be simple with the right tweaks. Just listen to your body, choose your foods wisely, and chat with your doctor if you need help. Pregnancy is a rollercoaster therefore focus on the excitement of welcoming your new little one!


Cleveland Clinic: Heartburn During Pregnancy

Web MD: Heartburn During Pregnancy

American Pregnancy Association: Heartburn During Pregnancy: Causes and Treatment