Is Heartburn an Early Pregnancy Sign?
There are so many noticeable changes going on in your body when you’re pregnant. But there are also subtle symptoms of pregnancy you may have before you know you're pregnant. You might be wondering, is heartburn an early pregnancy sign?
Let’s take a look at heartburn and how it might relate to pregnancy symptoms, as well as how to manage some discomfort you might be experiencing.
So, Is Heartburn an Early Sign of Pregnancy?
It is—for some women.
Let’s back up a second and define “heartburn” because, for some women, it might be the first time they’ve experienced this digestive symptom. Heartburn is a term that describes a burning sensation in your chest. You feel heartburn when stomach acid refluxes, or seeps back up, into your esophagus, the part of the digestive track that connects your mouth to your stomach.
While every woman’s body is different, and you can certainly experience heartburn and indigestion without being pregnant, heartburn can occur at any point in a pregnancy1. So, a woman may experience heartburn as an early pregnancy symptom—even before she knows she’s pregnant.
If you have recently been experiencing symptoms of heartburn and indigestion and think you might be pregnant, see your doctor.
Will I experience heartburn while I am pregnant?
Possibly—and likely. Many women experience heartburn beyond their first trimester of pregnancy2. There are a few reasons why:
Hormones relax muscles…
During pregnancy, a rising level of the hormone progesterone relaxes the valve (known as the lower esophageal sphincter) that separate the stomach and esophagus. As a result, stomach acids can flow back into your esophagus2 and lead to some of the classic uncomfortable heartburn feelings that come with acid indigestion.
…and slow digestion
Additional hormones slow digestion, which mean food may stay in your stomach longer2 and lead to a higher likelihood of acid indigestion.
The uterus crowds other organs
Later, as a pregnancy progresses and the uterus expands, it puts pressure on other organs in the abdomen3—including the stomach.
So, a stomach getting pushed out of place, with the food in it lingering longer, and a valve to the throat that’s a bit looser. The result? Heartburn.
A baby with lots of hair?
You might have heard the old wives’ tale that having heartburn while pregnant means you’ll deliver a baby with a more hair on its head. One small scientific study years ago did find a correlation4! Make of that what you will.
Treatment for Heartburn and Acid Indigestion During Early Pregnancy
Before jumping into the possible treatment options for pesky heartburn, confirm you are indeed pregnant with your trusted health care provider. They can help you better understand how to approach your symptoms and decide next steps.
If you are indeed pregnant and experiencing heartburn, we recommend taking the following measures to keep your heartburn symptoms at bay.3
- Avoid foods that flare up your symptoms. These might include spicy foods, fried foods or meals, caffeine such as coffee or soda. Create a journal of foods that you’ve noticed might cause upset stomach.
- Stay away from large meals just before bedtime. This can trigger acid reflux due to your sleeping position.
- Sleep with a pillow wedge that raises your head to deter acid reflux.
- Consult with your doctor to determine whether an antacid, like TUMS, would be right for you.
While it’s no fun to experience heartburn and acid indigestion, talk to your care provider about the many tools and resources to help you manage. Whether together you decide you should use TUMS to help manage your symptoms or find comfort in pairing antacids with other preventative measures, you have options.
Read more about heartburn and pregnancy and other heartburn and indigestion-related issues.
- Simerpal Kaur Gill, Caroline Maltepe and Gideon Koren. The effect of heartburn and acid reflux on the severity of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, April 2009. 23(4):270-272. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2711677/
- Juan C Vazquez. Heartburn in pregnancy. BMJ (British Medical Journal) Clinic Evidence, 2015; 2015: 1411. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562453/
- Pregnancy – signs and symptoms. Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/pregnancy-signs-and-symptoms.
- Kathleen A. Costigan, Heather L. Sipsma and Janet A. DiPietro. Pregnancy Folklore Revisited: The Case of Heartburn and Hair. Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care, November 2006. Volume 33, Issue 4 p. 311-314. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1523-536X.2006.00128.x