Pregnancy and Heartburn

Pregnancy and heartburn is a common complaint for many women. Although it has nothing to do with the heart, heartburn involves a burning sensation in the center of the chest. Heartburn in pregnancy just happens to be frequently experienced together.

What causes heartburn in pregnancy?

Pregnancy heartburn occurs when the valve between the stomach and the food pipe (esophagus) are unable to prevent the stomach acids from passing back into the esophagus. The hormone progesterone makes the valve atop the stomach to relax. Heartburn in pregnancy increases because the relaxed valve allows the stomach acid to pass into the esophagus and irritate the lining.

Pregnancy heartburn and indigestion are more common during the third trimester 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 esophagus.

How can you treat pregnancy and heartburn?

Preventing heartburn is the best way to deal with it! Here are some helpful hints to avoid heartburn:

  • Eat five to six smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large meals
  • Wait an hour after eating to lie down
  • Avoid spicy, greasy and fatty foods

If you are experiencing heartburn in pregnancy, there are a few natural things you can do to relieve the symptoms:

  • Eat yogurt or drink a glass of milk
  • Try a tablespoon of honey in a glass of warm milk

Over-the-counter antacids may prove helpful in relieving your pregnancy and heartburn problems. Do not take over-the-counter antacids without speaking to your health care provider. Some antacids contain high levels of sodium, which can cause fluid buildup in body tissues. Some may also contain lead.

If your pregnancy heartburn symptoms are severe, your health care provider may prescribe medication for you.

Last Updated: 09/2008

Compiled using information from the following sources:

Mayo Clinic Guide To A Healthy Pregnancy Harms, Roger W., M.D., et al, Part 3.

American Academy of Family Physicians, http://familydoctor.org/

American Pregnancy Association, http://www.americanpregnancy.org

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