How to Relieve Heartburn in Pregnancy

It’s no question that pregnancy can come with some new, and sometimes unwelcomed, changes to our bodies and our bodily functions. Heartburn or indigestion during pregnancy is one of those very common experiences. While it’s uncomfortable, there are steps you can take to mitigate or manage heartburn while you are pregnant. Below,  we’ll review some of the signs you can expect with pregnancy heartburn and how you can best prevent or help that discomfort.  

How to Relieve & Prevent Heartburn During Pregnancy

Table of Contents

What causes heartburn in pregnancy?

Heartburn can be felt as a burning pain or discomfort in the upper chest or throat. Certain foods, drinks, or underlying conditions can bring about this discomfort known as heartburn, indigestion, or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). No matter what you call it, it’s due to acid entering or backing up to the esophagus — not actually anything to do with the heart! This feeling can be very uncomfortable and often disrupts sleep, as it may worsen when lying down.

So, why does heartburn worsen or occur more frequently while pregnant? In short, hormones that are produced in pregnancy can cause the valve at the entrance between the stomach and esophagus to relax. This makes the valve unable to close as it usually would, allowing acids to make their way up to the esophagus.

When does heartburn start in pregnancy?

This answer may be unpopular, but heartburn can actually occur at any phase in the pregnancy, as all bodies are different. While it can occur at any time, it’s common for heartburn to become much more prevalent or severe in the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy. A few factors can contribute to the increasing severity of heartburn during your pregnancy. As mentioned, the production of hormones can relax the valve that prevents stomach acid from entering the esophagus. In addition, those same hormones can slow the digestion process, making it easier for food to stay longer in the stomach and make its way to the esophagus. Also, the growing uterus can very well begin to put more pressure on the abdomen, thus adding to the pressure of the stomach acid moving upward.   

What does heartburn feel like in pregnancy? Symptoms to look for:

If you have had heartburn outside of your pregnancy, you may be familiar with what symptoms to look out for. Here are some of the symptoms you may experience if you have heartburn during your pregnancy:

  • Pain, discomfort, or burning sensation in the chest behind the breastbone
  • Chest pain that may worsen when bending over or laying down
  • Burning in the throat or a taste of sourness in the back of throat
  •  Belching, burping
  • Coughing or wheezing

Remember, if you didn’t have heartburn before your pregnancy, these symptoms will likely subside after your pregnancy.  

Can heartburn cause coughing in pregnancy?

As listed above, coughing is one of the symptoms that can be caused by heartburn during your pregnancy. The acid in your throat can make you feel as if you need to clear your throat or cough. We’ll later review what you can do to prevent or manage your heartburn. If symptoms worsen or persist, you may want to check with a healthcare provider, as your cough may be due to another problem or require additional treatment.

Can heartburn cause nausea in pregnancy?

Nausea can be triggered or worsened when experiencing heartburn during your pregnancy. One of the symptoms of heartburn includes a sour taste in the back of the throat. This can often amplify nausea for pregnant women experiencing heartburn. Avoiding certain foods or monitoring when your heartburn worsens may help identify triggers that worsen your nausea. If you’re concerned about the duration and severity of your nausea, be sure to check in with your healthcare provider. They may identify medications or a treatment plan to minimize this effect.

Can heartburn cause shortness of breath in pregnancy?

While some symptoms of heartburn can be managed with diet modifications, shortness of breath should not go undiagnosed. Shortness of breath can have various root causes that may have been unidentified in your pregnancy. If you’re experiencing shortness of breath, it’s best to see a healthcare provider to identify the cause.

What helps heartburn in pregnancy?

While some cases of heartburn during pregnancy may require medical attention or over-the-counter drugs from a healthcare provider, some cases can be managed naturally. Here’s how to relieve heartburn in pregnancy:

  • Smaller meals throughout the day: Instead of your typical larger meals, it may be best to have several smaller meals throughout the day. This can allow the slower digestion process to catch up before allowing acid back up to the esophagus.
  • Foods to avoid: Avoid fatty, spicy, or fried foods that can trigger more acid production. Chocolate, caffeine, and mint are other foods that may cause heartburn.
  • Sit up after meals: While it may be tempting to lay back after a meal, sitting up can help prevent the natural gravity of acids to the esophagus.
  • Loose-fitting clothes: The tighter your clothes, the more pressure is added to your stomach. Besides, pregnancy is the best time to invest in some loose, comfortable clothing!

How can I prevent heartburn during pregnancy?

As mentioned, if you have had heartburn before pregnancy, you may be more likely to experience it while pregnant. Whether you experienced heartburn or not, following the tips listed above can help you prevent heartburn during pregnancy. If your heartburn persists or occurs several times a week, it’s time to see a doctor to help you better identify how to manage and prevent heartburn during pregnancy.

When does heartburn end in pregnancy?

For those who haven’t experienced heartburn regularly pre-pregnancy, heartburn may go away after the baby is born. All bodies are different, and for some, the heartburn may persist after the baby is born. For those who continue to experience heartburn, be sure to follow the suggested ways we’ve listed to manage and prevent heartburn. This can be in the form of moderation of certain foods, avoidance of spicy foods or caffeine, or maybe even continuing with your smaller meals throughout the day. If your heartburn is persistent or occurs several times a week, be sure to make an appointment with your healthcare provider. 

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