Remedies for Heartburn During Pregnancy
Your hormones may be the reason for newfound heartburn symptoms.
Many women experience heartburn for the first time while pregnant. In fact, 40 to 80 percent of all pregnant women will have heartburn.1 You should speak to your doctor if you are experiencing heartburn and ask for guidance on how to manage and treat it.
There can be two main reasons why being pregnant can cause heartburn. The first has to do with the body's increasing hormone levels. These hormones act as a muscle relaxant that helps prepare your body for childbirth. The downside? An increase in hormones may also relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)—the valve responsible for keeping stomach acid from moving up into the esophagus where it doesn't belong. If the LES is relaxed, the acid in your stomach can push up (reflux) into your esophagus. This acid may irritate your esophagus, causing heartburn.2
The second cause of heartburn in pregnant women develops as the pregnancy progresses. Babies grow at an incredible rate, and as they do, their increasing size can put pressure on your stomach. Often, this increased pressure can push the acid in your stomach up past the LES and back into your esophagus, causing heartburn.3
While your heartburn will likely stop after giving birth, if you breast-feed, your hormones may change again to trigger heartburn. Additionally, women who experience heartburn while pregnant have an increased risk for developing heartburn or GERD later in life.
Appropriate Remedies for Pregnant Women
- Lifestyle and diet management: Altering your diet or adjusting your lifestyle should be the first thing you try when looking to manage your heartburn during pregancy. From changing your sleeping position to altering your diet, there are many ways to help alleviate pain.
- Antacids: Antacids are an option for heartburn relief during pregnancy when used as directed. You should check with your doctor about appropriate antacid options and use, if you experience heartburn during pregnancy. In fact, for up to 50 percent of pregnant women, an antacid is all they need to ease heartburn symptoms. However, pregnant women should talk to a doctor or pharmacist about the need to avoid antacids containing sodium bicarbonate. Pregnant women should also be sure to take antacids at a different time than their iron supplements.4
While antacids have been used in pregnancy, there are other treatments for heartburn that may not be appropriate during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, you should speak to your doctor prior to using heartburn treatments, such as H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). When in doubt, talk to your doctor about the right heartburn relief treatments for you.
- Richter JE. Review Article: The Management of Heartburn in Pregnancy. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2005 Nov; 22(9): 749-57.
- “Indigestion and Heartburn in Pregnancy - Pregnancy and Baby Guide.” NHS Choices, NHS, 31 Aug. 2017, www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/indigestion-heartburn-pregnant.aspx.
- Johnson, Traci C. “Heartburn During Pregnancy.” WebMD, WebMD, 12 Aug. 2017, www.webmd.com/baby/heartburn-pregnancy.
- “Sodium Bicarbonate Use During Pregnancy.” Drugs.com, Drugs.com, www.drugs.com/pregnancy/sodium-bicarbonate.html.