One of the most common pregnancy side effects (besides morning sickness!) is heartburn. You may have never before experienced the discomfort of heartburn — but now that you’re pregnant, it’s a common, uncomfortable occurrence. Why is that?
Many women who don’t typically suffer from heartburn will often experience it during their pregnancy due to the physical and hormonal changes that happen as a part of pregnancy.
During pregnancy, progesterone levels are high, and this hormone has a relaxing effect on the sphincter. The sphincter constricts at the bottom of the esophagus to prevent reflux of food and acid from the stomach. This relaxing effect of the sphincter in addition to increased pressure on the stomach as the uterus grows can cause heartburn during pregnancy.
So, even though it’s called “heartburn,” it doesn’t involve your heart at all. Heartburn feels like burning or pain in the middle of your chest, and it usually happens soon after eating. Other symptoms include frequently burping, feeling sick, throwing up food, and feeling bloated or full. You may also feel pain when lying down, and your mouth may also have a bitter or acid taste in it.
Heartburn can happen during any trimester, but it usually gets worse as the uterus grows and places more upward pressure on your stomach and esophagus, especially when you’re lying flat. Heartburn is more common in women who have already been pregnant and those who had heartburn before they got pregnant.
You can do some things to relieve the aggravation safely, though. Spicy, fried foods, and foods high in acidity may worsen your heartburn. So we recommend identifying these foods and asking your doctor. Your healthcare professional may advise you to limit or avoid any food that will make your pregnancy heartburn worse.
Right now, you might be wondering what exactly you CAN do about pregnancy heartburn. Here are 10 practical tips for coping with heartburn during pregnancy:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals
- Avoid bending over or lying down flat (instead, prop yourself up with pillows when you sleep)
- Avoid lying down flat for 30-60 minutes after meals.
- Don’t eat late at night
- Cook with less fat
- Chew gum or suck on hard candy
- Exercise (but avoid it within two hours of a meal)
- Reduce stress by practicing deep breathing techniques or following a guided meditation
- Drink lemon water before a meal (juice from half a lemon, 8 ounces water, and a pinch of salt)
- After meals, try one teaspoon of honey
If none of these measures provide a remedy, over-the-counter heartburn relievers, such as Tums® or Maalox® can help you feel better. But be sure to check in with your doctor to get the go-ahead. Make sure to mention the specific antacid you’d like to use so that your healthcare provider can look at the ingredients before approving. For example, the antacid you have in mind may have high sodium levels, which would make you retain water. Also, some antacids have aluminum in them, which isn’t safe to ingest during pregnancy.
We hope that these tips for dealing with heartburn during pregnancy help you! Do you have any tips we didn’t mention here? Please share it by leaving a comment below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 12, 2015, and has since been updated.