Pregnancy And Heartburn: What Moms Need To Know

There’s an old wives’ tale that says women who experience heartburn during pregnancy are carrying a baby with a full head of hair. While anecdotal evidence might support this claim, pregnancy, and heartburn often go hand in hand.

However, the condition has nothing to do with whether your baby will need a haircut right after birth. Most pregnant women experience the discomfort (and sometimes outright misery) of heartburn at some point. In some cases, women can have this issue for most of their pregnancy. The good news is that it is manageable and temporary.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn actually has nothing to do with your heart at all. The term reflects the location of the discomfort, which usually starts in your chest behind the breastbone. The actual medical name for heartburn is gastroesophageal reflux, which means that food, fluids, or stomach acids back up into your esophagus.

Common heartburn symptoms include:

  • Burning or pain in the chest or throat
  • A sick or nauseous feeling
  • Frequent burping
  • Full or bloated feeling
  • Regurgitating food without actually vomiting

Many women experience heartburn for the first time during pregnancy, and in many cases, the condition goes away after delivery. Women are more likely to deal with symptoms while pregnant if they’ve had it before, especially during a previous pregnancy.

Why is heartburn so common among pregnant women?

Heartburn during pregnancy is common for several reasons. Speak with your doctor to ensure you know the reasons behind any of your symptoms and never attempt to treat yourself without their input.

Hormones: Pregnancy-related hormone changes can affect your digestive system, changing food tolerances and how you digest what you eat. Digestion often slows down, which can cause acid reflux.

Relaxed muscles: Pregnancy increases the production of the hormone progesterone, which causes muscles to relax and loosen. This includes the lower esophageal sphincter, the small muscle at the bottom of the esophagus. When it doesn’t close completely, acid from the stomach can flow back into your throat.

Enlarged uterus: Heartburn in pregnancy usually starts in the second trimester, as the uterus starts expanding. The bigger it gets, the more it crowds the surrounding organs, including the stomach. As you get closer to the delivery date, there’s less room for your stomach, which pushes its contents upward.

All of these factors disappear after giving birth, which is why most women don’t have any more issues after a few weeks.

Dealing with heartburn in pregnancy

While it can be hard to avoid heartburn entirely, you can reduce how often you feel discomfort and its severity by watching what you eat and when. Overeating and indulging in spicy or fatty foods while pregnant can make your symptoms worse, especially when eaten before bed.

Other ways to reduce your risk of heartburn include:

  • Eating multiple small meals throughout the day
  • Eating slowly
  • Avoiding acidic food and drink
  • Limiting caffeine consumption
  • Sitting up straight while eating and stay upright at least 30 minutes after eating
  • Avoiding late-night eating
  • Sleeping with your upper body elevated (supported by pillows)

Can you take antacids while pregnant?

Many women want to know if they can take Tums, Pepcid, or any other over-the-counter antacids while pregnant. Tums and over-the-counter Prilosec are safe during pregnancy. However, these drugs often contain high amounts of sodium, which can cause water retention. Taking more than the recommended dose of Tums can lead to too much calcium in the blood which can cause constipation and heart arrhythmias. If these medications are not working for you, talk with your doctor about prescription remedies.

Get the best pregnancy care at Women’s Healthcare Associates

If you have concerns about pregnancy and heartburn, talk to a provider at Women’s Healthcare Associates. Our compassionate and professional team is here to help you (and your baby) be healthy. Call (806) 355-6330 to schedule an appointment today!

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