Heartburn During Pregnancy: Everything You Need to Know

Heartburn: It’s often portrayed as a condition that affects older men who have overindulged in spicy food. The truth is that heartburn can affect just about anyone, and it’s among the most common pregnancy symptoms – in fact, it affects about 50% of pregnant women. What causes it, and what can you do about it? Read on for a total guide to heartburn during pregnancy.

What Causes Pregnancy-Related Heartburn?

Also known as acid indigestion, heartburn happens when stomach acid makes its way up into the esophagus, leading to serious discomfort. There are a few reasons why heartburn happens during pregnancy:

  • Hormones that relax the body’s muscles in preparation for the labor and delivery process also affect the digestive tract, causing the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus to relax. The good news is that this valve returns to its normal state after pregnancy.
  • As your baby grows, the enlarged uterus crowds other organs. The stomach has less room than usual, so acid and partly digested food is sometimes pushed upward, causing heartburn.

10 Ways to Get Heartburn Under Control

There’s not a lot you can do about some of your pregnancy symptoms. Luckily, heartburn is one that you might be able to reduce or even eliminate altogether. Here are 10 easy steps to take.

  1. Break meals down into smaller portions. Being too full often leads to heartburn, particularly during the second and third trimester. Eat lots of little meals and snacks instead of three big ones, and you’ll probably feel more comfortable.
  2. Avoid trigger foods. Stay away from foods that cause heartburn or make it worse, and you’ll probably find yourself feeling better. Some examples include chocolate, grapefruit, and tomatoes.
  3. Try OTC heartburn remedies. As long as your doctor approves, you can try over-the-counter medications. Paired with other measures, they may provide relief.
  4. Don’t nap or lie down immediately after eating. Give your food some time to digest. Allowing your stomach to return to its normal size reduces the pressure along with the likelihood of an acid indigestion attack.
  5. Elevate the head of your bed. Try using specially-designed bed risers or an under-mattress wedge lift to elevate the head of your bed by 6 to 8 inches. This way, gravity assists in keeping stomach acid where it belongs.
  6. Sleep on your left side. This tactic places most of the stomach below esophagus level and makes it harder for acid to escape.
  7. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Tight waistbands add to the pressure in your abdomen. Comfy maternity clothing with elastic waistbands helps you feel more comfortable throughout the day.
  8. Eat and drink slowly. Take time to relax and enjoy your meals. Small bites and sips reduce the amount of air that enters your stomach, helping to prevent excess pressure.
  9. Bend from the knees, not the waist. You’re probably used to bending quickly to pick items up from the floor. This can make heartburn worse, so use those leg muscles and squat down when you need to pick things up. If you can’t do a squat, try using a grabbing tool instead of bending over.
  10. Cut back on nighttime liquids. Heartburn is often at its worse when you’re trying to sleep. One way to keep it under control is to reduce the amount of liquid you drink at night. This tactic can also keep those late-night bathroom trips to a minimum. Give it a try!