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Why Do I Get Heartburn During Pregnancy & How Can I Make It Stop?

pregnant woman

There are a lot of weird and unpleasant side effects that come with being pregnant. They're not all the same for everyone, but one that seems to be universal is heartburn! Heartburn during pregnancy is very common, and VERY annoying. It can start as early as the first trimester, and run all throughout your pregnancy. Some heartburn can be helped by over-the-counter medication. But there are also some home remedies you can try to help relieve your pregnancy heartburn.

What Does Heartburn Feel Like?

Pregnancy heartburn might feel a bit different than other heartburn or acid reflux you've experienced. Some women describe it as a burning sensation that moves from your breastbone up through your neck and throat. Others describe it as a burning or sharp pain that appears after eating, and the feeling of acid coming up your throat (like when you're going to throw up).

Why Do Pregnant Women Get Heartburn?

During pregnancy, hormone changes cause the muscles in your esophagus to relax, which allows stomach acid to rise up into the esophagus. It happens more frequently after you've eaten and when you're lying down. As your pregnancy progresses, your growing uterus can put more pressure on your stomach, resulting in stomach acid and even food to push up into your esophagus.

Picture of pregnant woman taking medication pills at home
Credit: iStock

Home Remedies For Heartburn

Many OTC medications are approved for use in pregnancy to treat heartburn. You may find relief after taking an antacid like Tums or Rolaids. But there are other ways you can treat and manage your pregnancy heartburn that don't require medication. Chewing on sugarless gum for a half hour after you've eaten can increase your saliva production, which can help neutralize excess acid in your esophagus. Eating almonds can also help neutralize acids in your stomach. Milk is always a good standby - try a small glass of milk after meals or when you feel heartburn hit (some women claim that warm milk with a touch of honey is helpful). Papaya is another food that seems to be beneficial in treating heartburn when it hits; you can eat it fresh or dried.

In addition to some of these remedies, a few lifestyles changes may also help. Try to avoid foods that seem to exacerbate your heartburn, like acidic or spicy foods. Eat smaller meals more frequently, and try not to eat a few hours before you lay down to sleep. Sleeping on your left side is the ideal position to keep your stomach below your esophagus. And you can also try sleeping with a wedge pillow under your upper body to keep it slightly elevated.

When To Speak To A Doctor?

Pregnancy heartburn is (unfortunately) really common and not easily avoidable. But sometimes, it may be cause for concern. If you have heartburn that prevents you from sleeping, comes back as soon as your antacid wears off or doesn't respond to OTC meds or remedies, or creates other symptoms like weight loss, difficult swallowing, coughing, or black stool, call your doctor. Those could be signs of gastroesophageal acid reflux disease, or GERD, and left untreated could cause damage to your esophagus. Also, if your heartburn is greatly affecting your quality of life, let your doctor know. There are stronger medications they can prescribe that may offer some relief (and are still safe to use during pregnancy).

READ NEXT: 9 Things You Can Expect Throughout Every Month Of Pregnancy (Plus One After You Give Birth)

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