Heartburn during Pregnancy: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Heartburn during Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Aruna Kalra (MD Gynecologist)

Our Panel of experts

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) also called as acid indigestion or acid reflux, is a very common and recurring condition that primarily affects a muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter or the LES. This is a muscle that is found in the lower oesophagus close to the stomach. The condition is extremely common during pregnancy. Although it is generally harmless, it can be quite uncomfortable.

What Does Heartburn Feel Like When Pregnant?

Heartburn is a condition that can occur at any point throughout the pregnancy. This ailment afflicts many women on and off throughout their pregnancy. Heartburn and indigestion are more common during the third semester because the growing uterus puts pressure on the intestines and the stomach. The pressure on the stomach may also push contents back up into the oesophagus. You may even experience it up to a year after pregnancy if the weight you gain during it is more than expected. Here are some of the symptoms of stomach burning at the time of pregnancy:

  • You have a hard time while swallowing
  • You face a recurring chronic cough
  • You have a constant pain in the upper left side of your abdomen where your stomach is located
  • You begin to throw up in your mouth (this is called regurgitation)
  • You have a constant sore throat
  • You always have a hoarse voice

Note: Heartburn during pregnancy will not hurt your child or have any effect on your delivery.

Causes of Dyspepsia During Pregnancy

Your body has a valve that helps in keeping the food you have just eaten and the stomach acid that is responsible for digestion down. When this valve is compromised, it results in heartburn. There are a number of reasons you can have heartburn. Some of the main causes for it to affect you during pregnancy are:

  • A hormone called progesterone may relax the valve, causing partially digested food and some stomach acid to shoot back up the oesophagus. This can cause a burning sensation in the chest and upper abdomen.
  • Indigestion.
  • Morning sickness.
  • A condition called macrosomia (this is when your baby is too large and presses onto your stomach, forcing the acid back up the food pipe).
  • If you are pregnant with more than one baby (this can cause one of the babies to put pressure on the stomach, which releases recently digested food and stomach acid up into the oesophagus).
  • In late pregnancy, heartburn can be caused if your baby is in a bottom-first or breech position (this can put more pressure on your diaphragm and lead to heartburn).

Woman suffering from indigestion

Talk to your doctor if the heartburn remains for extremely long periods of time. This could be a sign of pre-eclampsia. This condition is characterised by hypertension and protein in the urine. It can be very dangerous for both the mother as well as the baby.

Does Heartburn in Pregnancy Cause Any Complication?

This condition can cause a temporary swelling to the oesophagus leading to a condition called oesophagitis. Acid reflux, as mentioned earlier, can be a sign of a late pregnancy illness called pre-eclampsia.

Treatment for Acidity When Pregnant

Heartburn can be treated using many techniques and medicines. Here are some contemporary ways to treat this condition:

  • Homeopathy: This is a form of medication and therapy that has some remedies for treating heartburn. Please note that these remedies lack scientific backing. If you want to pursue it, be sure you consult a qualified and licensed physician to ensure proper treatment using this method of medicine.
  • Antacids: Antacids are the most efficient way to treat heartburn. They contain magnesium or calcium, both of which are known to help ease this ailment.
  • Over the counter drugs: Medication like pantoprazole that can be bought over the counter can help play both a preventive and managing role in the treatment of heartburn.
  • Fruit salts: You can buy fruit salts for heartburn which is available at almost any pharmacy.

Do remember to talk to your doctor before attempting any form of treatment to avoid anything which may hurt your baby.

Home Remedies for Heartburn during Pregnancy

Although heartburn can be treated using medication, it can also be managed and treated at home using various techniques. Here are some of the most popular natural remedies for pregnancy heartburn:

  • Bubblegum – Chewing bubble gum can help increase the saliva in your body by stimulating the salivary glands. This neutralises the stomach acid
  • Ginger tea – This warm concoction is a throat-soothing wonder. Not only does it help digestion, reduce stomach acid, and help a sore throat, but it can also regulate sugar levels. Consume with caution if there is any bleeding, as this is known to slow down clotting.
  • Dandelion tea – This is another natural remedy that plays a regulatory role in stomach acids. Do not use this if you are on medication for blood pressure as dandelion has natural components that can interfere with BP medication.
  • Chamomile tea – This calming tea is known to help digestion, lessen anxiety, and regulate and control the dispersal of stomach acid. However, chamomile tea is known to keep you awake rather than help you sleep, and is best avoided if you have insomnia.
  • Essential oils – Using essential oils like grapeseed, orange, lemon, lavender, rosemary and neroli oils have a calming effect on the body. These can also play a huge role in helping the body function normally and control numerous conditions, one of which is heartburn.
  • Yogurt – Eat yoghurt or drink a glass of milk.

Woman drinking milk

Talk to your doctor about other home remedies for heartburn, discuss treatment alternatives with them, and never start any treatment when pregnant without consulting a doctor.

Prevention

Although heartburn is not dangerous and is treatable and manageable, it can still be prevented. Here are a few important tips on how to avoid acidity during pregnancy:

  • Don’t smoke – Cigarettes have been known to cause major complications during pregnancy. They are also known to be one of the most common causes of heartburn. This is because nicotine can lead to excess stomach acid.
  • Change your diet – Eat small meals frequently, and ensure they are nutritious and contain lots of fruits and vegetables. Avoid oily food and foods that may upset the stomach, such as carbonated drinks, spicy foods and processed meats. Your diet can be the leading cause of heartburn; managing this can help avoid heartburn during pregnancy.
  • Clothes matter – Wear comfortable clothes. Anything too tight can put unwanted pressure on the stomach and force up stomach acid. This makes an uncomfortable situation worse.
  • Hydrate – Staying well-hydrated helps control the digestion in your body and eases heartburn by making it harder for acid to flow back up the food pipe.

Knowing about heartburn plays a crucial role in controlling, preventing and treating it. Remember to talk about the condition to your partner, caregivers and doctors. This condition is not harmful and is preventable. You can try various techniques till you find what is suitable for you.

The most important thing to know about heartburn during pregnancy is that it is not dangerous and will not play a part in the delivery of your child or their health after birth.

Also Read: Morning Sickness in Pregnancy