Heartburn and pregnancy often go hand in hand. Many women begin experiencing heartburn early in their pregnancy, and it often continues until the baby is born. Below is some information about heartburn in pregnancy and how you can alleviate symptoms.
What Causes Heartburn during Pregnancy?
Several different factors contribute to the development of heartburn in pregnancy. One of the causes is the presence of hormones like progesterone, which relax the sphincter between the stomach and the esophagus. The sphincter, which is a band of muscle that opens and closes to allow food into the stomach, is typically closed when you are not swallowing. However, when the sphincter is more relaxed, it may allow some of the contents of the stomach to flow upward3.
In addition to relaxing the esophageal sphincter, progesterone also slows down your digestive processes, which keeps food in the stomach longer. The longer your food remains in your stomach, the more likely you are to experience the symptoms of heartburn.
Another cause of heartburn in pregnancy is the pregnancy itself. As the baby grows, the uterus puts more pressure on the stomach. This pressure can push the contents of the stomach upward and into your esophagus, causing you to experience heartburn.
Symptoms can begin at any time during pregnancy, but they tend to be worse during the second and third trimesters. Some women who experience heartburn in pregnancy have never had this issue before. For women who have heartburn before becoming pregnancy, heartburn during pregnancy may be more severe.
Preventing Heartburn during Pregnancy
It may be difficult to prevent all heartburn symptoms during pregnancy, but there are steps you can take to reduce the frequency and severity of the symptoms you experience. Some of the strategies you can use to prevent heartburn in pregnancy include:
1. Avoid foods that trigger heartburn.
Certain foods are more likely to cause heartburn symptoms than others. Some examples of foods that may cause heartburn include chocolate, foods containing caffeine, fried food, fatty food, spicy food and carbonated beverages2. Some people may also notice that specific types of foods are more triggering for them than others. Pay attention to the foods that cause your heartburn most often and try to avoid them as much as possible.
2. Don't eat late at night.
Many pregnant women notice that their heartburn symptoms are worse if they eat meals later in the evening. Try to eat your last meal of the day at least one hour before you go to bed. This will give your body more time to digest the food before you lay down, which may reduce heartburn1.
3. Avoid eating too quickly.
When you eat quickly, your food is not chewed well. You are also more likely to swallow air. Both of these issues can worsen heartburn symptoms. Eat your meals slowly and chew thoroughly before you swallow⁴.
4. Eat smaller meals.
Larger meals take up more space in your stomach and are more likely to cause severe heartburn symptoms, especially as your pregnancy progresses. To avoid these issues, eat smaller amounts of food throughout the day, rather than three larger meals1.
5. Don't wear tight clothing.
Tight clothing puts more pressure on your stomach, which can make your heartburn worse. Wear loose fitting clothing to keep your heartburn symptoms at bay, especially when you are lying down⁴3.
6. Don't lie flat.
When you lie flat, it is easier for acid to flow from the stomach into the esophagus. You can reduce heartburn symptoms by elevating the upper part of your body when you sleep2.
Pregnancy Heartburn Remedies
Even with the best preventative measures, you may still experience heartburn symptoms while pregnant. Fortunately, pregnancy heartburn relief is possible. You must speak with your doctor before beginning any treatments.
Some of the remedies for heartburn in pregnancy include3:
- Antacids - Antacids work by neutralizing the acid in your stomach on contact.
- Other medications - To be sure histamine-2 blockers, like Maximum Strength PEPCID AC, are right for you, please talk to your doctor or pharmacist before use.