Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, can be a major inconvenience for many pregnant women. It often surfaces later in pregnancy, such as in the third trimester. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to feel better if this annoying pregnancy symptom affects you.
Common symptoms of heartburn include a burning feeling in your throat or chest. Even though it is called “heartburn,” the good news is that it has nothing to do with your heart. What is actually happening is that your esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach) is a bit leaky. This allows some of the acid in your stomach to go back up into the esophagus, causing discomfort.
Unfortunately, pregnancy hormones are partly to blame. The sphincter that usually keeps your esophagus shut is leaky because of the high levels of progesterone in your system. This, combined with a growing uterus that is pushing up on your stomach, contributes to heartburn.
The good news is that there are some things you can try to keep your heartburn under control that don’t involve taking medications. These include:
- Eating small, frequent meals instead of fewer large ones.
- Sitting upright during and after eating.
- Drinking enough liquids while you eat to help your food pass through your stomach.
- Don’t eat for a few hours before bed (since you’ll be lying flat while sleeping).
- Use a few extra pillows at night to keep your head elevated more.
- If certain foods are triggers for you (such as spicy foods or coffee), avoid them or eat only in moderation.
If you’ve tried these changes and are still not feeling well, there are medications that are safe in pregnancy. Most providers will recommend starting with over-the-counter antacids. However, not all over-the-counter options are ideal. Tums, Rolaids, and Mylanta are all safe, and a good percentage of pregnant women will only need these. However, if you have tried over-the-counter medications and feel that you need something stronger, your doctor or midwife can write a prescription that is safe for you and your baby.
Happily, many women find that their heartburn goes away completely after they give birth. For the few who are not that lucky, the above-mentioned methods can be tried again. Medications do exist that are safe with breastfeeding as well.
Reviewed by Jennifer Lincoln, January 2019
- Heartburn, or acid reflux, is a very common symptom in the third trimester of pregnancy.
- Despite its name, it has nothing to do with your heart.
- Common symptoms of heartburn include a burning feeling in your throat or chest.
- Luckily, there are many things you can try to make your symptoms better, but if these don’t work, medications can also be used.