Dealing with Heartburn and Indigestion During Pregnancy

  • 25%

    experience heartburn daily in pregnancy

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about pregnancy safe over-the-counter medications

  • Helpful Tips:

    • Try a "food curfew" with dinner and snacks at least 3 hours before bedtime
    • Smaller, more frequent meals may help
    • Try mild, bland foods
    • Hydrate often between meals

What is it?

Heartburn often feels like a burning sensation in your upper digestive tract, primarily your throat and stomach. You may experience heartburn while pregnant because during pregnancy, progesterone relaxes the smooth muscles in your digestive tract. That allows more acid to pass into your esophagus from your stomach, irritating your esophagus's lining. Digestion is also slowed in pregnancy to allow your body more time to absorb and deliver nutrients to you and your growing baby.

As your pregnancy progresses, the physical expansion of your uterus puts pressure on your stomach often, making heartburn worse.
Myth: heartburn and a newborn’s hair

You may have heard about a connection between heartburn severity and the amount of hair an infant is born with. Interestingly, there may be some evidence linking the amount of hair a newborn has with heartburn symptoms, but the study sample is small and further exploration of this connection is needed. Importantly, having heartburn will not affect your baby's development.

How common is it?

Heartburn is very common, with 30-80% of people experiencing mild to moderate symptoms at some point during pregnancy and 25% experiencing daily symptoms.

How long does it last?

Most people will have mild to moderate symptoms at some point during their pregnancy. Heartburn is more common as your pregnancy progresses into the second and third trimesters due to increasing progesterone and your growing uterus.

What can I do about it?

First, look at your eating and drinking habits, as those can affect your likelihood of experiencing heartburn. Talk to your healthcare provider if heartburn prevents you from eating, drinking, or engaging in daily activities.

Eat smaller meals and hydrate often

Consider breaking large meals into smaller meals and snacks. Eating slowly and chewing thoroughly might also help, as breaking food down by chewing is the first step in digestion.

  • The more you chew your food and allow the enzymes in your saliva to begin to help the digestion process, the less work your stomach will have to do.
You should also make sure to hydrate often. Some people carry a large water bottle with them as a reminder to hydrate throughout the day, but if drinking water causes heartburn flare-ups that limit your water consumption, talk to your healthcare provider.


Eat mild, bland, low-fat foods

If you’re experiencing heartburn, try monitoring which foods aggravate your symptoms and cut back or eliminate them from your diet. It can help to keep a food diary to document what you eat throughout your day and rate the heartburn on a scale of 1-10. Common culprits include foods that are fatty, acidic, and spicy, and sugary drinks—including carbonated beverages.

Consider a “food curfew”

If you experience issues with heartburn mostly at night (which is common because your horizontal body position at bedtime can make it easier for acid to rise), try eating dinner and snacks earlier in the evening, ideally three hours before bed.

Try sitting with your head above your heart

After you eat, try to avoid lying down for a few hours. Instead, you can sit, stand, or go for a walk. If you need to lie down, try placing some pillows under your shoulders to elevate your head and shoulders and prevent acid from rising into your esophagus.

Try chewing gum

Chewing gum can help you produce more saliva, which can help neutralize stomach acid. But make sure to check the label because some artificial sweeteners, like saccharin, are not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothing

Try wearing loose clothing that isn’t restrictive. Tight-fitting clothing can put additional pressure on your stomach and digestive tract. Maternity underwear that is stretchy or low-cut will be less restrictive and able to accommodate your changing body.

Consider pregnancy-safe over-the-counter medicines

If your heartburn is consistently troublesome even when you’ve tried the suggestions above, talk to your healthcare provider about medication options that are safe to use during pregnancy. Some over-the-counter options, like an antacid containing calcium (like Tums), are not absorbed into your bloodstream and are safe to use during pregnancy. They also provide calcium supplementation, which is beneficial for maternal and fetal bone health and doesn’t have any side effects. Famotidine (example: Pepcid AC) is another commonly used and safe medication that reduces stomach acid. Talk to your healthcare provider if your symptoms compromise your quality of life.

When should I be worried?

Heartburn is a common symptom during pregnancy, and although it can be uncomfortable, it’s not something to be concerned about if your symptoms are mild. Severe heartburn can occur during pregnancy or complicate a case of reflux you had before pregnancy.

  • Significant pain in the epigastric area (at the base of your sternum) can signify a less common but more severe form of preeclampsia that requires immediate medical attention.

If attempts to manage heartburn or alleviate the symptoms don’t help, especially if your symptoms prevent you from following your regular diet, or compromise your sleep, talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options.

Bodily does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.

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