Pregnancy “Pains” Series: Heartburn

Continuing our Pregnancy “Pains” series, this month we tackle the ever so pleasant topic of heartburn!  As annoying and uncomfortable as it can be, it’s very common during pregnancy (as so many of these lovely side effects can be). Symptoms of heartburn include a burning feeling in your chest, which can also be accompanied by a sour taste in the back of your throat, or even a feeling of food being stuck in the back of your throat. Read on for why heartburn is so common during pregnancy, and some simple tips to mitigate it.

What causes heartburn?

  • Pregnancy Hormones: During pregnancy, there is an increase in the hormone, Progesterone.  Progesterone helps prepare and maintain a supportive environment in the uterus for the fertilized egg.  Unfortunately though, it also relaxes the stomach valve that is responsible for keeping acid out of your esophagus.

  • Expanding Uterus: As your pregnancy progresses, your uterus expands, compressing your stomach and digestive tract, which increases the chances of getting heartburn.

How to help prevent heartburn

  1. Eat smaller meals throughout the day, and eat SLOWLY!

  2. Drink less with meals and more in between meals, as drinking more with meals can actually increase the risk of acid reflux.

  3. Avoid foods that trigger your heartburn. NOTE, this may be different for every woman. Some common foods that trigger heartburn include high-acid foods (like tomatoes and citrus), fried foods, spicy foods, rich foods, caffeine, chocolate, and even mint.

  4. Do not lie down within 1-2 hours following a meal.  It’s also best to avoid eating a meal at least 2 hours prior to sleep.
  5. When lying down, it’s best to keep your head slightly higher than your feet. Try placing a pillow under your shoulders when sleeping, or even try sleeping in a reclining chair if needed.

How to help prevent heartburn

In addition to taking the steps listed above, the following tips can help reduce symptoms if you’re experiencing heartburn:

  1. Consider using an over-the-counter antacid. Always consult with your doctor first, but typically antacids containing calcium or magnesium should be safe to take during pregnancy (in fact the extra calcium is good for moms-to-be!).  Avoid antacids that contain aluminum because it can cause constipation and be toxic at high doses.  Also avoid sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), as it can cause swelling.
  2. Try ginger. While there is not much scientific evidence for its efficacy as a remedy, many women find it does soothe nausea and stomach pain, and it is safe during pregnancy.
  3. Wear loose-fitting clothing, as tight fitting clothing increases the pressure on the stomach.
  4. If needed during exercise, modify any back-lying exercises by performing them in the seated or standing position.

See previous posts in our Pregnancy “Pains” Series: NauseaConstipation, and stay tuned for next month when we tackle yet another one!