Heartburn During Pregnancy
Getting heartburn in pregnancy is an unpleasant but common experience. Pregnant women are much more likely to get heartburn, especially in later trimesters than women who are not pregnant.
Cause of Heartburn in Pregnancy
The primary reason why heartburn during pregnancy exists is due to the actual physical mechanics of being pregnant. Physical pressure on the stomach significantly increases the risk of heartburn. This is why avoiding tight pants and belts is recommended for all people with heartburn: the pressure on the stomach can create heartburn or make it worse.
However, in pregnancy, the pressure of carrying a baby on the stomach (the actual organ) can create heartburn. The closer the baby is to delivery, the larger the baby gets, and the more pressure it applies to the stomach. As the baby compresses the stomach, heartburn can ensue.
Unfortunately, until delivery, your susceptibility of heartburn is very high. However, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the risk of getting heartburn during pregnant.
How to Stop Pregnancy Heartburn
One of the easiest ways to stop heartburn in pregnancy is by using our top two heartburn remedies: chewing gum and vinegar.
Try chewing gum throughout the day, especially after eating, to help reduce pregnancy heartburn. This helps produce saliva, aids digestion, and creates a pH buffer in the esophagus (see the heartburn remedies homepage for studies supporting this as well as how this works).
Note: Avoid peppermint-flavored gum and stick to something more mild, as many people get heartburn from peppermint!
Additionally, try taking a spoonful of vinegar (actual liquid vinegar, not capsules) when you experience heartburn during pregnancy. This can be a powerful home remedy and many people report great results with just a teaspoon of vinegar.
Reduce Pregnancy Heartburn Risk Factors
While these simple remedies can help stop heartburn in pregnancy, there are a few simple steps you can take to avoid getting heartburn in the first place:
- Eat small, frequent meals. The pressure of a very full stomach that is already being compressed by a baby can frequently lead to heartburn.
- Avoid laying down right after eating. Try to avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed as laying down after eating frequently leads to heartburn during pregnancy.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes. While it may not be fashionable, avoid tight pants. Combined with the pressure of carrying a baby, this is a sure way to get heartburn.
- Raise the head of your bed by 6 inches so you are sleeping on a slight incline. This will allow gravity to help keep down what belongs in the stomach.
Heartburn Medications and Pregnancy
There have been some questions lately about the safety of medications used for treating heartburn during pregnancy. In particular, proton-pump inhibitors are a fairly new class of medications. The oldest, omprazole, is available over the counter.
A recent cohort study tracking nearly a million children reported that there was no significant risk factors associated with using proton pump inhibitors during pregnancy (1).
However, I believe that it is still too early to call these drugs 100% safe to use and would rather err on the side of safety for the future child. We still do not know what if these children will express any abnormalities 10 years from now, nor is a single study, no matter how large, 100% conclusive about the safety of a certain medication.
Heartburn in Pregnancy Wrap-up
By following these preventative strategies and using our top two heartburn remedies, you can significantly reduce the severity and frequency of heartburn in pregnancy.
1. Pasternak B, Hviid A. Use of proton-pump inhibitors in early pregnancy and the risk of birth defects. N Engl J Med. 2010 Nov 25;363(22):2114-23.