What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy?
Heartburn happens when stomach contents travel back up into the esophagus, the tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach. At the bottom of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle opens and closes to allow food into the stomach. The LES is typically closed when you are not swallowing. However, when this muscle is more relaxed, it may allow some of the undigested food and stomach acid to flow upward into the esophagus1.
Several different factors can trigger heartburn during pregnancy. One of the causes is hormones like progesterone, which your body produces at high levels while you are pregnant. Progesterone relaxes the LES, increasing the chances that stomach contents will leak into your esophagus2.
Progesterone also relaxes muscles in the digestive system, preventing the stomach from emptying as quickly. The longer your stomach remains full of food, the more likely you are to experience the symptoms of heartburn2.
Certain medications can also increase heartburn. If you take drugs to treat nausea or high blood pressure during pregnancy, you may experience heartburn as a side effect1,3.
Another cause of heartburn in pregnancy is the pregnancy itself. As the baby grows, the uterus puts more pressure on the stomach. This pressure can push the contents of the stomach upward and into your esophagus, causing you to experience heartburn4.
Symptoms can begin at any time during pregnancy, but they tend to be worse during the second and third trimesters. Some women who experience heartburn in pregnancy have never had this issue before. For women who have heartburn before becoming pregnancy, heartburn during pregnancy may be more severe5.
Symptoms Of Heartburn During Pregnancy
Heartburn is a burning feeling that may be felt between the middle of your chest under your breastbone, up into your throat6. It can also cause:
- Burning pain in chest
- Burning feeling in the throat
- Sour and Acidic taste in the mouth or throat
- Pain that worsens when lying down or bent over
How Can Heartburn Be Prevented?
It may be difficult to completely block all feelings of heartburn during pregnancy, but you can take several steps to reduce the frequency and severity of the symptoms you experience. First and foremost, talk to your primary care provider or obstetrician. Under their supervision, you may be able to try various remedies such as avoiding foods that trigger your heartburn.
Learn about the foods that may trigger heartburn and find tips on making helpful changes in your diet, in order to prevent heartburn here.
Home Remedies and Tips
Learn how small lifestyle changes can prevent or minimize your heartburn symptoms. Check out our top tips for heartburn prevention to find what might work for you here.
Treatment of Heartburn During Pregnancy
Diet and lifestyle changes can help reduce symptoms. However, even with the best preventative measures, you may still experience heartburn while pregnant. Fortunately, relief is possible. Ask your doctor about medications that can reduce acid and ease symptoms.
Some of the remedies for heartburn in pregnancy include:
- Antacids - Antacids work by neutralizing the acid in your stomach on contact.
- Other medications: Histamine-2 blockers - PEPCID® is a fast-acting acid reducer that can reduce heartburn symptoms within minutes. Please talk to your doctor or pharmacist before use to see if Pepcid is right for you.
- 1Heartburn. MedlinePlus. Reviewed January 14, 2021. Accessed December 15, 2021.
- 2Vazquez JC. Heartburn in pregnancy. BMJ Clin Evid. 2015;2015:1411.
- 3Law R, Maltepe C, Bozzo P, Einarson A. Treatment of heartburn and acid reflux associated with nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Can Fam Physician. 2010;56(2):143-144.
- 4Heartburn During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association. 2021. Accessed March 1, 2022.
- 5Pregnancy and Heartburn. Stanford Children’s Health. 2022. Accessed March 1, 2022.
- 6Heartburn and GERD: Overview. InformedHealth.org. Updated December 13, 2018. Accessed December 15, 2021.