Heartburn During Pregnancy

Heartburn is also known as indigestion or acid reflux. It occurs when the stomach acid regularly moves back into the tube linking your mouth and stomach (oesophagus). This acid reflux can infuriate the lining of your oesophagus.

Causes of heartburn

Indigestion is common during pregnancy because of:

  • Growing baby pressing against your stomach. 
  • Pregnancy hormonal changes, changing oestrogen levels lead to an increase in cortisol levels, which can lead to digestive problems like bloating and even heartburn.
  • The valve at the stomach entrance relaxes, preventing it from closing as it should. This allows the acidic stomach contents  to move up into the oesophagus, thus causing heartburn.
  • Indigestion can happen if you had heartburn before you were pregnant as well as if you have been pregnant before.
  • It is more common  in the later stages of pregnancy.

There is a myth which states that the amount of hair on the baby’s head can cause heartburn, but there is very little research data to support this.

Symptoms of heartburn

They usually show up soon after drinking or eating, but can also develop over time. In pregnancy, heartburn is usually experienced from around 27 weeks onwards.

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Burping
  • Feeling or being sick
  • A burning pain in the chest
  • Feeling bloated or full
  • Difficulty consuming food

How to control and prevent heartburn

  • To prevent heartburn, make changes to your diet and even lifestyle. This can be sufficient to reduce the symptoms especially if they are mild.
  • Try switching to  frequent and modest meals, and include healthy snacks since indigestion can happen if you are too full.
  • Try to avoid chocolate, spicy foods, citrus fruits, and fried foods, they can trigger heartburn.
  • To understand even further, remember your oesophagus is attached to your stomach on the right side of your belly, therefore try sleeping on your left side to improve  circulation of blood flow into your heart and  to take the pressure off your lower esophageal sphincter (LES). 
  • Avoid caffeine.
  • Drink fluids after your meals rather than with your meal.

Medicines for heartburn include:

Two medicines that are regularly recommended for pregnant women because  they are known not to be harmful to the unborn baby are:

  • Ranitidine– a tablet is taken twice a day
  • Omeprazole– a tablet is taken once a day

Two other types of medication that are recommended for the treatment of heartburn are:

  • Antacids – help in neutralising the acid found in your stomach, can be available over the counter from a pharmacist.
  • Alginates – they help stop the acid in the stomach from coming back up the oesophagus, and thus, they relieve indigestion.

It is important to consult your midwife before taking any medication, particularly if you are also taking iron supplements because antacids can stop the iron from being absorbed by the body.

In the case that you are struggling to manage your symptoms, we recommend you see your midwife or doctor.

Nabta is reshaping women’s healthcare. We support women with their personal health journeys, from everyday wellbeing to the uniquely female experiences of fertility, pregnancy, and menopause

Get in touch if you have any questions about this article or any aspect of women’s health. We’re here for you. 


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