heartburn during pregnancy

How to Deal with Heartburn During Pregnancy

Written by: Alyssa Larsen



Time to read 6 min

Pregnant women deal with a long list of challenges during pregnancy, and heartburn is a prime example. You may experience heartburn for the first time during pregnancy or more frequently and intensely than you ever have before. We’ll help you learn how to identify and manage heartburn symptoms to lessen your discomfort.

What Is Heartburn?

Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is a symptom of acid reflux.  Acid reflux happens when the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that’s meant to act as a one-way pass from your esophagus to your stomach, isn’t closing tightly. If the esophageal sphincter is still open after eating or drinking there’s a chance that stomach acid will rise up into your esophagus causing heartburn. 

If you have severe and persistent acid reflux over a long period of time you may be diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

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When Does Pregnancy Heartburn Start?

Pregnancy symptoms and discomforts can change from day to day. Heartburn is a common ailment that can surface at any time during your pregnancy. It can start as early as your first trimester but typically becomes more of a regular occurrence in the second half of your pregnancy.

If you’ve never suffered from heartburn before, it can be hard to put your finger on what exactly is causing your pain. Here are some heartburn symptoms to look out for.

Pain in Your Chest or Throat

Especially after eating, you may feel a painful or burning sensation high in your chest or up in your throat. This is from the stomach acid rising up into your esophagus.

Feeling Full or Bloated

Your digestive system slows down when you’re pregnant, so eating a large meal can make you feel bloated. If your stomach is too full there’s a greater chance of acid reflux.

Frequent Belching

In an effort to relieve your heartburn, you’ll naturally produce and swallow more saliva. As your body tries to soothe indigestion, you may ingest more air than normal—leading to excessive burping.

A Sour Taste in Your Mouth

You may have guessed it, that sour taste is the stomach acid making its way back up into your mouth. It’s probably preceded by a big belch that helped force the acidic contents of your stomach to reach the top of your esophagus.


The acid from your stomach aggravates the internal lining of your throat and may make you cough until you can relieve the irritation.

What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy?

Acid indigestion is usually diet related. However, there are some causes specific to pregnancy that could trigger heartburn.

Changes in Hormones

Pregnancy hormones are to blame for plenty of aches and pains, including heartburn. Your hormones are responsible for slowing your digestive tract to ensure that your body absorbs as many nutrients as possible. This change may mean you have to pay more attention to your portion sizes at meal times so you aren’t overfilling your stomach before it’s had a chance to digest.

Loosening of the Lower Esophageal Sphincter

Hormones specific to pregnancy relax your muscles, ligaments, and joints as your body prepares for childbirth. The lower esophageal sphincter that separates your esophagus and stomach can be affected by these relaxing hormones as well. If the esophageal sphincter is relaxed it isn’t closing tightly enough to stop stomach acid from rising up into the esophagus.

Your Growing Uterus

A growing uterus means a growing baby, which is great! A healthy, growing baby is the goal of pregnancy, but the shift in organ placement isn’t ideal for preventing heartburn. As your uterus gets larger, it pushes up against your stomach. The pressure on your stomach and intestines compromises effective digestion and forces stomach acid back up the esophagus.


Pregnant women are more likely to have gallstones due to the increase in the hormone estrogen, which raises cholesterol levels. An imbalance of cholesterol and bile can cause stones to form in your gallbladder. Heartburn may be among your symptoms of gallstones, so you should notify your healthcare provider right away.

What Are Treatments for Pregnancy Heartburn?

Heartburn during pregnancy is usually a discomfort that you can manage on your own. However, you should check with your OB-GYN before starting any self-treatment if your heartburn is severe, or you’re experiencing other symptoms with it. Here are a few ways to treat heartburn symptoms.


Always check with your healthcare provider to discuss your medication options. They may recommend an over-the-counter medication for as-needed heartburn relief, or give you a prescription to take daily.

  • An antacid like Maalox can lessen the pain when taken at the onset of heartburn. TUMS is another non-prescription option recommended by the American Pregnancy Association.

  • A calcium supplement can neutralize the acid that’s causing your discomfort. Calcium carbonate is already present in some common over-the-counter antacids, but calcium citrate is most easily absorbed by your body.

  • Proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers may be recommended or prescribed to you by your doctor if you have daily acid reflux or have been diagnosed with GERD. Both of these types of medications reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. You should discuss your options with your doctor if you believe a medication like this may help you.


Changing your diet and style of eating can be helpful in treating heartburn flare-ups.

  • Eating yogurt or drinking milk is an easy way to get the calcium you need to combat the burning feeling of heartburn.

  • Add a tablespoon of honey to a glass of warm milk to soothe and heal your throat if it’s sore from acid reflux.

  • Slow down your pace when eating or drinking if you feel heartburn coming on. It might be helpful to take a break from your meal and use your heartburn medication at this time.

Lifestyle Changes

Making small adjustments to your daily routines can help you manage heartburn symptoms.

  • Practice good posture while you eat. Slouching puts more pressure on your stomach.

  • Use extra pillows to prop up your head and shoulders while you sleep. A wedge pillow at the head of your bed gives you a supportive incline through the night. You’ll have gravity on your side to help keep the stomach acid down.

  • Relax in a reclined position. When heartburn hits you can rest in The Glider Plus to find relief. The power recline and adjustable support of this chair will help you find the perfect position to sit comfortably—and maybe fall asleep—until the heartburn wears off.

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How to Prevent Heartburn During Pregnancy

Instead of waiting for heartburn to show up before you treat it, you can plan ahead to avoid situations that commonly trigger heartburn.

  • Avoid citrus fruits and juices that have high acidity, like pineapple slices or orange juice.

  • Avoid fatty foods and spicy foods that stimulate acid reflux.

  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol. Not only do tobacco and alcohol contribute to heartburn, but they are also both unhealthy for you and your baby. If you need help quitting, you should reach out to your healthcare provider for resources.

  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day to avoid overfilling your stomach.

  • Don’t eat right before bed and wait an hour after you eat before you lie down.

If you’ve been struggling with heartburn since the beginning of your pregnancy or you’ve just had your first taste of it in your third trimester, don’t hesitate to discuss your options with your doctor.

For more pregnancy tips and tricks you can visit the Nurture& Journal and explore our online store for baby and nursery essentials made for parents, by parents.

L. Elizabeth Forry

Medically reviewed: Gabriela Alvarado

Medical surgeon with certifications from Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins University. Committed to medical excellence, she has conducted several academic research projects that have contributed to the advancement of the field.

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