What Causes Pregnancy Heartburn? Plus, How to Find Relief Fast
If you’re dealing with heartburn in early pregnancy or in later trimesters, it only makes sense to want to do what you can to stop the condition in its tracks. After all, pregnancy heartburn symptoms can be intense – and they come at a time when you’re already grappling with a slew of other bodily changes.
Heartburn is a condition that happens when your stomach contents come back into your esophagus, the tube that connects your throat to your stomach, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Pregnancy is unfortunately a risk factor for heartburn, making it a common issue expectant moms face.
But pregnancy heartburn relief is a little different from what you’d do if you weren’t pregnant, making pregnancy heartburn remedies slightly more complicated than treating the condition when you’re not expecting.
Whether you have pregnancy heartburn at night, during the day, or what feels like 24/7, here’s how to get rid of heartburn during pregnancy fast.
Pregnancy Heartburn Symptoms
The symptoms of pregnancy heartburn are the same as they would be if you weren’t pregnant, says Christine Greves, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. According to the Cleveland Clinic, those symptoms can include:
- Feeling burning or pain in your chest
- Feeling bloated or full
- Burping frequently
- Feeling sick
As for how long symptoms last, it really depends on the person, says G. Thomas Ruiz, MD, lead ob-gyn at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif. “It can start early in pregnancy and last the entire time or come and go,” he says. “But it’s more common in the third trimester.”
Pregnancy Heartburn Causes
There are a few possible causes of pregnancy heartburn. “Everything boils down to hormones – at least, initially,” Dr. Greves says. “Early on, hormonal changes like an increase in progesterone slow movement in your bowels.” That, she explains, can cause food to back up, raising the risk of heartburn.
“As the pregnancy progresses, the baby is growing and pushing on your stomach,” Dr. Greves says. “If the septic tank is full, it’s going to back up.”
How to Get Rid of Heartburn During Pregnancy Fast
If you need relief in the moment, doctors recommend reaching for calcium carbonate, like Tums. Famotidine (Pepcid) is also usually considered OK, Dr. Ruiz says – just check in with your doctor first, as some antacids may contain high levels of sodium, which can increase water retention, Cleveland Clinic reports. Others may contain aluminum which isn’t safe to consume during pregnancy.
Also, some research suggests the proton-pump inhibitor omeprazole (also referred to under the brand name Prilosec) should be avoided when it comes to treating pregnancy heartburn. Ultimately, it’s best to check in with your doctor before taking these medications.
If you prefer to avoid taking medication entirely, Dr. Greves suggests eating yogurt or having a glass of milk to help try to relieve heartburn.
Other Pregnancy Heartburn Remedies
Dr. Greves generally recommends that expectant moms try lifestyle changes before using any kind of medication. “Try to do as much natural stuff as you can,” she says.
That can include:
- Avoiding trigger foods, like spicy, fried, fatty, or citrus foods.
- Eating several small meals during the day instead of three large ones.
- Limiting caffeine.
- Avoiding eating late at night.
- Avoiding lying on your back right after eating.
- Keeping the head of your bed higher than the foot of the bed.
When to See Your Doctor About Pregnancy Heartburn
If you’re regularly dealing with heartburn during your pregnancy, Dr. Greves recommends flagging it for your doctor. They should be able to offer individual advice to help you get relief.
And, while it’s no consolation when you’re in the thick of it, Dr. Ruiz says it’s important to know that pregnancy heartburn won’t last forever. “It will usually get better after baby is born,” he says.