Pregnancy Information Center

Information, Symptoms, Treatments and Resources


Heartburn and Acid Reflux During Pregnancy: Your Symptoms Manual


What Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and Indigestion During Pregnancy Are

Heartburn is a painful burning sensation in the esophagus, just below or behind the breastbone. The pain often rises in your chest and may radiate to your neck or throat. You may bring up some of the stomach acid into your mouth; this is known as acid reflux. Heartburn often happens when you lie down, cough, lift something heavy, or strain while passing a stool.

Indigestion is a vague feeling of abdominal discomfort — possibly including belching, a feeling of fullness, bloating and nausea.

Why Heartburn, Acid Reflux and Indigestion During Pregnancy Happen

Hormones and the pressure of the growing uterus cause indigestion and heartburn. Pregnancy hormones slow down the muscles of the digestive tract, so food tends to move more slowly and digestion is sluggish. This causes many pregnant women to feel bloated.

Progesterone, the hormone associated with back pain and constipation, also relaxes the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach. This allows food and acid to come back up from the stomach to the esophagus. The food and acid cause the burning feeling of heartburn. As your baby gets bigger, the uterus pushes on the stomach, making heartburn more common in late pregnancy, beginning in the second trimester.

How to Relieve Heartburn, Indigestion and Acid Reflux During Pregnancy

Try these tips to prevent or alleviate heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux:

  • Eat 6 to 8 small meals instead of 3 large ones — eat slowly. Eating small meals ensures that your stomach is never too full.
  • Drink fluids between meals — not with meals.
  • Don't eat greasy and fried foods.
  • Avoid citrus fruits or juices and spicy foods.
  • Don't eat or drink within a few hours of bedtime. You can, however, drink a glass of milk at bedtime to help neutralize stomach acid.
  • Don't lie down right after meals.
  • Sleep propped up on several pillows.

Call your healthcare provider if your symptoms don't improve after trying these suggestions. Ask your provider about an antacid. Antacids are generally safe to take throughout your pregnancy.

Albina Tiplyashina/iStock/Thinkstock
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