Heartburn During Pregnancy: 5 Effective Strategies for Relief

by Ella

Pregnancy is a transformative and joyous time in a person’s life, but it can also bring its fair share of discomforts, including heartburn. Heartburn during pregnancy, often referred to as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a common occurrence due to hormonal changes and the physical pressure exerted on the stomach by the growing baby. While heartburn can be uncomfortable, there are safe and effective ways to manage it during pregnancy. In this article, we will explore the causes of pregnancy-related heartburn and offer strategies to find relief without compromising the health of the expectant parent or the baby.


Understanding Pregnancy-Related Heartburn

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest and throat. During pregnancy, heartburn is primarily triggered by a combination of hormonal changes and physical factors:


1. Hormonal Changes: The hormone progesterone, which increases during pregnancy, relaxes the smooth muscles, including the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES normally acts as a valve to prevent stomach acid from flowing into the esophagus. When it relaxes, stomach acid can more easily reflux into the esophagus, leading to heartburn.


2. Increased Intra-abdominal Pressure: As the baby grows, it exerts increasing pressure on the abdomen, pushing the stomach upward. This can also contribute to the weakening of the LES and allow stomach acid to flow into the esophagus.


3. Delayed Gastric Emptying: Pregnancy can slow down the process of emptying the stomach, leading to prolonged exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid.

Managing Heartburn During Pregnancy

While pregnancy-related heartburn can be uncomfortable, it is essential to prioritize safe and effective strategies to alleviate symptoms. Here are some practical ways to manage heartburn during pregnancy:

1. Dietary Modifications

Making changes to your diet can have a significant impact on reducing heartburn symptoms:

a. Eat Smaller, Frequent Meals: Instead of three large meals a day, opt for smaller, more frequent meals to reduce the pressure on your stomach and LES.

b. Avoid Trigger Foods: Identify and avoid foods that trigger heartburn symptoms. Common triggers include spicy, acidic, and fatty foods, as well as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and chocolate.

c. Stay Upright After Meals: Remain upright for at least two to three hours after eating to minimize the risk of acid reflux. Avoid lying down or bending over immediately after meals.

d. Elevate the Head of Your Bed: If you experience nighttime heartburn, consider raising the head of your bed by about 6 to 8 inches. This elevation can help prevent stomach acid from flowing into the esophagus while you sleep.

e. Use Pillows: If elevating the entire bed is not practical, use extra pillows to prop up your upper body while sleeping.

2. Lifestyle Adjustments

Certain lifestyle changes can also contribute to managing heartburn during pregnancy:

a. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can put pressure on the abdomen and exacerbate heartburn symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider about healthy weight management during pregnancy.

b. Avoid Tight Clothing: Wearing tight-fitting clothing, particularly around the waist, can increase abdominal pressure and contribute to heartburn.

c. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help dilute stomach acid and prevent dehydration, which can exacerbate heartburn.

d. Exercise Regularly: Engaging in moderate physical activity can help maintain healthy digestion and minimize heartburn. Consult with your healthcare provider about suitable exercise options during pregnancy.

3. Medication Options

In some cases, lifestyle and dietary modifications may not provide sufficient relief from heartburn symptoms during pregnancy. In such situations, healthcare providers may recommend certain medications that are considered safe for expectant parents and their developing babies:

a. Antacids: Over-the-counter antacids, such as calcium carbonate (Tums) or magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia), can provide temporary relief by neutralizing stomach acid. These medications should be used as directed and not in excess.

b. H2 Blockers: Histamine H2 receptor blockers, such as ranitidine (Zantac) and famotidine (Pepcid), can reduce stomach acid production and alleviate heartburn symptoms. Always consult with a healthcare provider before using any medication during pregnancy.

c. Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): PPIs like omeprazole (Prilosec) may be prescribed in cases of severe or persistent heartburn. These medications reduce stomach acid production more effectively but should be used under medical supervision.

4. Natural Remedies

Some expectant parents prefer to explore natural remedies for heartburn relief:

a. Ginger: Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and digestive aid. Sipping ginger tea or consuming ginger capsules may help alleviate heartburn symptoms.

b. Slippery Elm: Slippery elm, often available in lozenge or tea form, can coat and soothe the esophagus and provide relief from heartburn.

c. Chewing Gum: Chewing sugarless gum after meals can stimulate saliva production, which can help neutralize stomach acid.

d. Aloe Vera Juice: Some individuals find relief from heartburn by consuming aloe vera juice, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Ensure you choose aloe vera juice specifically intended for internal consumption.

5. Consult a Healthcare Provider

If heartburn during pregnancy persists or becomes severe, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider. Persistent symptoms could be a sign of more severe conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or other gastrointestinal issues. A healthcare provider can provide a thorough evaluation and recommend appropriate treatment options while ensuring the safety of both the expectant parent and the baby.


Heartburn during pregnancy is a common discomfort, but it can be effectively managed through lifestyle modifications, dietary adjustments, and, in some cases, the use of safe medications or natural remedies. Prioritizing good nutrition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seeking guidance from a healthcare provider when necessary can help ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable pregnancy journey. Always remember that your healthcare provider is your best resource for personalized advice and recommendations tailored to your specific needs during pregnancy.


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