Heartburn Often Appears During The Second Trimester And It Can Get Worse As Your Belly Grows Learn More About What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy With Expert Tips For Relieving The Pain
Like the name implies, heartburn is a burning sensation in your chest but it has nothing to do with your heart. It happens when the lower esophageal sphincter , a muscle responsible for keeping stomach contents in their place, begins to relax or leak. This allows stomach acids to flow upward into the esophagus, explains Suzanne Trupin, M.D., CEO of Women’s Health Practice of Champaign, Ill.
Unfortunately, most pregnant people will experience some acid reflux , especially in the second half of their pregnancy, says Shari Brasner, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City. The uncomfortable sensation tends to get worse as your baby grows.
Heartburn usually appears after meals or at bedtime, and it can range from uncomfortable to agonizing. Understanding the causes and prevention strategies can provide relief to expectant parents. Here’s what you need to know about heartburn in pregnancy.
When To Get Medical Help
See your midwife or GP if you need help managing your symptoms or if changes to your diet and lifestyle do not work. They may recommend medicine to ease your symptoms.
You should also see your midwife or GP if you have any of the following:
- difficulty eating or keeping food down
Your midwife or GP may ask about your symptoms and examine you by pressing gently on different areas of your chest and stomach to see whether it’s painful.
Does Heartburn During Pregnancy Mean My Baby Will Be Born With Hair
Suffering from severe heartburn? You may want to stock up on baby shampoo. Research has backed up the superstition that, on average, the more heartburn you have during pregnancy, the more likely your baby will be born with a full head of hair.
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.
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How To Lower Your Risk Of Heartburn During Pregnancy
For some women, diet and lifestyle changes during pregnancy can lessen the likelihood of heartburn. Suggestions from OB/GYNs include: monitoring overall food consumption, eating smaller meals throughout the day, and reducing caffeine intake.2 Avoid eating or drinking too close to bedtime and stay away from spicy and fatty foods to lower your risk of occasional heartburn after dinner and at night.2 As far as specific items are concerned, citrus fruits and chocolate have been linked to trigger heartburn during pregnancy.6
What Is Heartburn During Pregnancy
Heartburn doesnt really mean your heart is burning, but its a good description of the pain that begins behind the breastbone. It then moves upward to the neck and throat.
Officially, heartburn is known as gastroesophageal reflux, when acidic stomach juices or food and fluids back up into the esophagus. This is a hollow muscular tube between your mouth and your stomach.
Many women who have heartburn during pregnancy have never had that problem before. Unfortunately, if you had heartburn before becoming pregnant, youre more likely to have symptoms while you are pregnant.
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How To Find Pregnancy Heartburn Relief
Heartburn happens, but theres no need to suffer in silence. There are several proactive and reactive steps you can take to get pregnancy heartburn reliefbut it might involve some trial and error and a few conversations with your doctor.
Certain over-the-counter and prescription medications can help treat heartburn symptoms in pregnancy, and some simple diet and lifestyle changes may work to prevent episodes in the first place. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Diet Nutrition And Lifestyle
What and how you eat can make all the difference with heartburn during pregnancy.
- Eating smaller meals throughout the day
- Making your main meal at lunchtime, which takes pressure off the digestive tract later in the day when the body is tired or ready for bed
- Avoiding food a couple hours before bed or a nap
- Sitting upright after eatinglying down can push stomach contents back up
- Propping your head up with a couple of pillows while sleeping
- Tight fitting clothes. They put even more pressure on your organs.
- Liquids while you eat. This dilutes your digestive juices, making them less effective.
- Eating the following aggravating acidic foods:
- Caffeinated and sugar beverages, like tea, coffee, soda, etc.
- Spicy, fatty, rich, and fried foods
- Large quantities of meat in one sittingthe body works harder if overloaded or too rich
Again, adding and subtracting certain foods and behaviors daily will help build a more balanced foundation for your wellness.
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What Causes Baby To Have Lots Of Hair
The follicles that grow while they’re in the womb form a hair pattern they’ll have for the rest of their lives. New follicles don’t form after birth, so the follicles you have are the only ones you’ll ever get. The hair is visible on your baby’s head and may grow quickly or slowly during the weeks leading up to birth.
How Do I Treat Heartburn During Pregnancy
When youre growing a human being, you dont have time for that yucky acid reflux. But your usual go-to methods for treating it may not be safe for your unborn baby.
Instead, here are some of the safest and best ways to get rid of heartburn when youre pregnant:
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How Can Heartburn In Pregnancy Be Relieved
Although heartburn can last for the entire pregnancy, there are some things you can do to relieve the feelings.
Some suggestions are:
- Eat a high fiber diet
- Dont eat late at night
- Dont eat and then lie down
- Sleep propped up, not completely horizontal
- Eat a diet low in acidic and fatty foods.
Its best to try to treat heartburn during pregnancy naturally.
Although its unpleasant, heartburn isnt usually serious enough to take stronger measures.
Eat Smaller Meals Throughout The Day
If you’re suffering from morning sickness, eating just a little at a time is probably no problem for you. But if your appetite is healthy, be sure to avoid eating so much that you feel full.
Just as it does when you’re not pregnant, an overly stuffed stomach can contribute to heartburn. Instead of three square meals a day, try five or six smaller ones.
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When You Should See A Doctor For Heartburn
Wellenstein tells Insider that heartburn is rarely a cause for major concern in pregnancy, especially if a woman didnt have an issue with it prior to pregnancy.
However, if symptoms become more frequent or severe despite lifestyle and dietary attempts, or if she develops nausea and vomiting due to the severity of the heartburn, she should promptly alert her doctor. And it is a medical emergency if she begins vomiting blood, since this may indicate a more serious condition related to heartburn, Wellenstein says.
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What Does Heartburn Feel Like
Heartburn typically feels like a burning in the center of your chest, behind your breastbone. When you have heartburn, you may also feel symptoms like:
- A burning feeling in your chest that can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours.
- Pain in your chest when you bend over or lay down.
- A burning feeling in your throat.
- A hot, sour, acidic or salty taste in the back of your throat.
- Difficulty swallowing.
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Treatment Of Heartburn During Pregnancy
If your heartburn wonât go away, see your doctor. They may prescribe or recommend OTC medications that are safe to take during pregnancy. Heartburn usually disappears following childbirth.
Medications may include:
Over-the-counter antacids such as calcium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide. These are generally safe to use during pregnancy. You may find that liquid heartburn relievers are more effective in treating heartburn, because they coat the esophagus.
H2 blockers. These medications block chemical signals that produce stomach acid. They include cimetidine and famotidine , and theyâre available in over the counter and prescription strengths.
Proton pump inhibitors . Like H2 blockers, these drugs help cut down on stomach acid. PPIs, which include lansoprazole and omeprazole , are available over the counter and by prescription.
If you take iron supplements, talk to your doctor before you take a PPI or H2 blocker. These medications can make the supplements less effective.
Foods That Wont Cause Heartburn During Pregnancy
While you should avoid spicy, greasy or fatty foods which trigger heartburn and other gastrointestinal issues, there are fluids and food that wont cause heartburn during pregnancy.
Liquid foods, especially, are less likely to cause problems than solids meals since they pass through your stomach much faster.
Smoothies, milkshakes, soups, puddings, yogurt, milk, and protein shakes, are excellent choices that prevent or get rid of heartburn during pregnancy fast. Other foods that calm heartburn include almonds and pop papaya. Even when you decide to take solid foods, chew more slowly and very well until they become almost liquefied.
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Pregnancy Itself Ups Your Risk Of Heartburn
Normally, there are certain factors like your weight, whether you smoke, and your genes that can increase your likelihood of heartburn. But when youâre pregnant, itâs the pregnancy itself that makes you more susceptible.
âThere are two main factors,â says Renee Wellenstein, DO, who is a double board-certified OB-GYN. One thatâs hormonal and one thatâs physical.
Heartburn is caused by acid reflux, when food and digestive fluids, which contain acids, back up in your esophagus and create that uncomfortable burn. That backup can happen when youâre pregnant because you have higher-than-usual progesterone levels, which can one slow digestion and two relax the muscle, called the esophageal sphincter, that separates your esophagus and stomach.
Combined, these two factors create the perfect storm for heartburn because the slow digestion can lead to more backup in your esophagus and the relaxed muscle makes it easier for acid to creep through.
âThe other factor is the growing uterus that physically pushes up on the stomach as it grows,â says Wellenstein.
As a result, heartburn does tend to get worse throughout pregnancy. Fortunately, all those changes to your body that cause heartburn during pregnancy quickly disappear after you give birth. So, at least thatâs something you can look forward to leaving behind at the hospital when you bring your newborn home.
What Causes Pregnancy Heartburn
Although the exact causes of this heartburn arent clear, most experts believe that pregnancy hormones, particularly progesterone, play a role.
Hormones cause relaxation of the esophageal sphincter, which is a tight circular band of muscle at the top of the stomach. This allows partially digested food and stomach acids to backflow, or reflux, into the esophagus. In addition, progesterone also slows the digestive process. This keeps food in the stomach longer.
The pregnancy itself the upward pressure of the growing uterus also may play a role.
These can make your heartburn worse:
- Most spicy, greasy or fatty foods
- Eating large meals or overeating
- Eating right before bedtime
- Smoking makes heartburn worse and is another reason to quit, especially while pregnant
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Causes Of Indigestion In Pregnancy
Symptoms of indigestion come when the acid in your stomach irritates your stomach lining or your gullet. This causes pain and a burning feeling.
When you’re pregnant, you’re more likely to have indigestion because of:
- hormonal changes
- the growing baby pressing on your stomach
- the muscles between your stomach and gullet relaxing, allowing stomach acid to come back up
You may be more likely to get indigestion in pregnancy if:
- you had indigestion before you were pregnant
- you’ve been pregnant before
- you’re in the later stages of pregnancy
What Makes It Better
For most women, things that help reduce acid production or prevent reux are helpful in avoiding the discomfort of heartburn. Here are tips that may help:
Avoid classic spicy foods, as well as those with lots of fat or grease. Many people recommend avoiding citrus and chocolate, as well.
Eat multiple, small meals spread throughout the day, much like grazing, instead of three big meals.
Try elevating the head of your bed by several inches, and wait a while after eating before going to bed or lying down.
Some women find that its better to drink fluids between meals, rather than with a meal. This can increase the amount of contents in the stomach.
If your symptoms do not improve after the above recommended diet and lifestyle changes are in place, talk with your healthcare provider about over-the-counter medicines. Antacids are available as chewable tablets and liquids. They work by coating the lining of the esophagus and stomach and neutralizing stomach acid. Heartburn medicines called H2-blockers work by reducing the amount of acid made by your stomach. Although most of these are considered safe in pregnancy, as with all medicines, these should be avoided in the first trimester.
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How Do You Get Rid Of Heartburn When Your Pregnant
Heartburn can be uncomfortable, but heres how to fire back: Watch what you eat. Eat frequent small meals instead of three a day. Sit up straight when you eat. Dont eat within three hours of going to bed. Dont smoke. Elevate your head 6 to 9 inches when you sleep. Wear loose-fitting clothing. Drink after meals, not with them.
Can I Take Over
Nonprescription heartburn relievers, such as Tums® or Maalox®, can help you feel better. But talk to your healthcare provider before taking antacids. They may contain high sodium levels, which can cause you to retain water. Some also have aluminum in them, which isnt safe to consume during pregnancy. Your provider can recommend an antacid thats safe during pregnancy.
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When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider About Heartburn During Pregnancy
If heartburn isnt going away, talk to your provider. They can prescribe medications that are safe to take while pregnant.
You should also call your provider if you:
- Have heartburn that wakes you up at night.
- Have trouble swallowing.
- Have black poop.
- Are losing weight.
Heartburn can have similar symptoms to a heart attack. If youve never had heartburn before and youre having chest pains, call your provider or head to the nearest ER.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Heartburn during pregnancy is a common pregnancy symptom, especially in the third trimester. You can prevent or get relief from heartburn during pregnancy by making a few changes to your diet, like eating more frequent but smaller meals and avoiding spicy or fried foods. Some yogurt or milk may also help relieve symptoms. Before you take antacids, be sure to check with your provider for the safest option to take during pregnancy.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/29/2021.
Talk To Your Doctor About Heartburn Medications
This includes over-the-counter ones some are safe to take during pregnancy.
Antacids help neutralize the acid in your stomach and quell that burning sensation. The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health says OTC antacids containing calcium carbonate are safe to use.
If you havent been able to quiet your heartburn with lifestyle changes, your doctor may suggest heartburn drugs like Tagamet and Prilosec, which are generally considered safe during pregnancy. While these drugs are available OTC, you might receive a prescription for a stronger dose if your doctor thinks its warranted.
When youre pregnant, you have to think about the safety of everything you put into and on your body. Some heartburn medications that might be OK for your nonpregnant sister but not for you include:
- Antacids containing sodium bicarbonate, which can increase swelling.
- Antacids containing aspirin, which can be toxic to your baby. Aspirin use during pregnancy has been associated with pregnancy loss, heart defects, and bleeding on the brain in premature infants.
- Antacids containing magnesium trisilicate, which havent been proven safe to use in pregnancy.
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