While pregnancy is a beautiful thing, it does sometimes come with unpleasant symptoms. We’ve all heard of morning sickness and weird cravings, but what about heartburn?
Aside from nausea, heartburn was the one symptom I had throughout my whole pregnancy (and still suffer with today). But, throughout my pregnancy journey I learned a few ways to reduce and even prevent heartburn from occurring.
If you’re experiencing heartburn during pregnancy, read on to discover home remedies that worked for me (and hopefully they’ll work for you, too.)
What Causes Heartburn While Pregnant?
After eating or drinking, food is transported down your esophagus into your stomach. A ring-shaped muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) acts as a sort of barrier between your stomach and esophagus. It opens up to allow food and liquids into the stomach and then promptly closes.
However, many factors (including pregnancy), can cause the LES to not close properly allowing stomach acid to travel back up into the esophagus. This leads to the uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest and throat known as heartburn, or acid reflux.
While heartburn can affect anyone, pregnancy does make you more susceptible. Hormones, diet, and your growing belly are just a few reasons you may be experiencing heartburn more frequently.
How Common Is Heartburn During Pregnancy?
While not every woman will experience heartburn during pregnancy, one study found that between 17%-45% of pregnant women actually do. In fact, heartburn is one of the most common gastrointestinal issues most reported in pregnancy.
That’s not to say you will have it with each pregnancy, but if you experienced heartburn before becoming pregnant, your chances are much higher.
Which Trimester Does Heartburn Begin And End?
Heartburn afflicts pregnant women at varying lengths and degrees of severity.
However, according to that same study referenced above, the occurrence of heartburn increases from 22% in the first trimester to 39% in the second trimester to between 60% and 72% in the third trimester.
If you’re one of the unlucky ones (like me), heartburn can affect you the whole length of your pregnancy. Mine started as early as week 6 and didn’t let up until after delivery. However, there were little tips and tricks I learned along the way that helped reduce acid reflux episodes (some days even preventing it altogether!)
5 Home Remedies To Reduce Heartburn During Pregnancy
1. Avoid big heavy meals right before bed
It’s thought that progesterone (one of the hormones that’s increased in the body during pregnancy) causes the LES to relax more frequently, thus giving an opening for stomach acid to escape. In addition, your digestion is slowed down in order for nutrients to be absorbed more efficiently for your baby. This combination is the perfect recipe for heartburn to occur.
If you eat a big meal right before bed, it takes much longer to digest, and it requires much more stomach acid to break down. This almost assuredly leads to a bad acid reflux episode. Instead, try and eat your last meal of the day at least 3 hours before you go to bed.
2. Eat and drink foods with high levels of calcium
Calcium is one of the most efficient ingredients that neutralizes stomach acid, fast. It’s also why most antacids contain a significant amount of calcium.
High calcium foods and drinks to consume to reduce heartburn during pregnancy include:
- Milk (even dairy alternatives like almond milk and oat milk work)
- Cheese (but avoid unpasteurized and soft cheeses like brie throughout your whole pregnancy)
- Leafy greens such as spinach and kale
- Some fortified cereals
3. Be aware of trigger foods and beverages
Some foods and drinks can increase your chances of experiencing a heartburn episode, so it’s best to steer clear of these if you can. These include:
- Fried foods
- Caffeine (coffee, soda, chocolate)
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy foods
4. Chew gum
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I had packs of gum everywhere around the house just in case I needed it. Chewing gum actually increases your saliva production, allowing you to swallow more (neutralizing the acid) and washes it away from your mouth and throat.
Plus, for me, it was a welcome distraction to get my mind off the burning sensation I was constantly feeling. Just make sure to avoid a peppermint flavored gum as peppermint can be a trigger food for some.
5. Tums are your new best friend
Stock up in bulk, ladies trust me. My diet regularly consisted of Tums chews. It’s safe to take during pregnancy, works incredibly fast, and you get a decent amount of calcium, too! If watching your food intake isn’t enough, Tums can help bring you the relief you need.
Additional Tips To Help Alleviate Heartburn
- Don’t wear tight fitting clothing. If your stomach is being squeezed too tightly, it can cause stomach acid to travel upwards into your esophagus. Besides, during pregnancy, it’s advised to wear clothing that gives way to your growing belly.
- Elevate your head at night. Lifting your head a few inches can do wonders for alleviating acid reflux symptoms. It positions your esophagus above your stomach making it harder for acid to travel upwards. Use an extra pillow or two, or even invest in an adjustable bed.
- Sleep on your left side. Due to the curvature of your stomach and it’s position to your esophagus, laying on your left side greatly reduces the chances of experiencing heartburn.
- Reduce stress—it could be a trigger. While stress is never good (especially when pregnant), it could be making your acid reflux and heartburn worse. While pregnancy already slows your digestion, stress can do the same thing. This increasingly extends the time it takes for food to pass through your body, allowing more opportunities for acid to escape back into your esophagus. Try taking a relaxing bath or getting a prenatal massage.
- Stay active. This is not only important during pregnancy, but for your overall health in general. Walking and light jogging is all it takes to keep your body healthy and heartburn at bay.
Are you currently suffering from heartburn or did you experience it while pregnant? Tell me what did and didn’t work for you in the comments below!