How To Relieve Heartburn During Pregnancy

The changes your body goes through during pregnancy are essential for your baby’s healthy growth and your body’s preparation for delivery. Physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy often result in acid reflux, which causes heartburn. The discomfort can be mild for some mothers but intensely painful for others. Either way, there are steps you can take to get relief.

Heartburn refers to the uncomfortable burning or painful sensation in your chest when acid moves upward from your stomach into your esophagus. Your esophagus is the muscular tube that moves food from your mouth toward your stomach for digestion. At the bottom of your esophagus is a circular muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter. When functioning normally, this muscle prevents acid from leaving your stomach. But when this sphincter doesn’t close completely, stomach acid can reflux or travel upward into your esophagus.1

Pregnancy can cause an increase in acid reflux and, thus, heartburn because of a hormone called progesterone. Progesterone, aka the pregnancy hormone, can slow digestion and cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax.2 Besides hormonal changes, physical changes can contribute to heartburn. As your baby grows, your uterus expands. This can increase the amount of pressure placed on your stomach.3

For some women, thanks to progesterone, heartburn starts during the first trimester of pregnancy. For other mothers, they may not experience it until the third trimester.8 The frequency of heartburn typically increases as your pregnancy progresses.2

Heartburn is one of the most frequently experienced symptoms during pregnancy since it is reported by over half of all pregnant women. It happens more commonly in mothers who have either been pregnant before or suffered from heartburn before becoming pregnant.1

Thankfully, there are effective options for heartburn relief in pregnancy. Be sure to talk with your OB care provider before trying home remedies for acid reflux or taking over-the-counter medications during pregnancy. Antacids, such as Tums, can help reduce heartburn symptoms. However, it is essential to discuss with your OB care provider which medications are safe to take while pregnant.3

Some antacids contain high amounts of sodium, which can cause water retention. Others have aluminum, which you should not take while pregnant.1 Also, you should avoid taking antacids within two hours of your folic acid or iron supplements because they may reduce your body’s ability to absorb these nutrients.4

If your OB care provider recommends taking over-the-counter medications, you can use these to ease the discomfort quickly. But what if you are at work or traveling and don’t have access to antacids when the burning sensation strikes? Knowing how to get rid of heartburn during pregnancy using other remedies can also help provide fast relief:

  • Milk: Fortunately, heartburn does not necessarily require taking medication — simply drinking milk or eating low-fat yogurt can help.1 Of all the milk options, skim is your best bet, as the fat in whole milk can sometimes worsen acid reflux.5
  • Ginger tea: You may also find relief by drinking ginger tea with a tablespoon of honey.6 Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is a commonly used digestive aid.5
  • Lemon water: Even though lemon juice is acidic, drinking a small amount with honey and warm water can help neutralize the acid in your stomach.5

There are several steps you can take to reduce acid reflux and heartburn symptoms during pregnancy:

  • Diet: Choose foods that won’t cause heartburn during pregnancy, especially ones that are high in fiber (oatmeal, sweet potatoes, or carrots), less acidic (bananas, melons, or nuts), and contain plenty of water (watermelon, celery, or cucumbers).5 Avoid greasy or spicy foods and caffeine since these can worsen heartburn.1
  • Take your time: Eat your meals slowly and try eating smaller meals more frequently.7
  • Alcohol and smoking: Avoid both of these. Alcohol and smoking not only contribute to heartburn, but they can also negatively impact your baby’s growth and development.1
  • Posture: Pay attention to your posture while you eat. Sitting up straight when eating can aid in preventing acid reflux.1
  • Sleep position: Don’t lie on your back immediately after eating, and try to elevate the head of your bed.7 You can try sleeping with a wedge-shaped pillow or pillows under your shoulders.1

The good news is that some of the more uncomfortable pregnancy-related symptoms don’t last forever. If you are experiencing heartburn during your pregnancy, you don’t have to suffer. There are things you can try to reduce the discomfort. Talk with your OB care provider about your options, and keep in mind that as hormones return to their pre-pregnancy levels, for most mothers, heartburn resolves shortly after delivery.