Heartburn during pregnancy is a common discomfort. The good news is that most people can find relief from natural remedies and minor changes in routines or avoiding food triggers.
Heartburn or acid reflux occurs in around 30% to 50% of pregnancies. Heartburn during pregnancy will present much like heartburn at any other time, likely beginning with a sensation of burning behind the breastbone in the chest or throat, as well as an acidic taste in the mouth.
Acid reflux tends to be the worst during the nighttime. Symptoms are often exacerbated when lying down (or bending over) or after a big meal.
What triggers heartburn in pregnancy?
Heartburn or acid reflux during pregnancy is typically caused by three main factors: changes in hormone levels, relaxing of the esophageal sphincter, and the growing uterus. Hormone changes can impact the way you tolerate and digest foods.
For many, the changes in hormones slow down the digestive system. When food moves slower through the digestive tract this can cause bloating and heartburn. One of the key hormones during pregnancy, progesterone, can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax. This is what normally closes off your esophagus from your stomach so that stomach acid does cannot move up into the esophagus. Then the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes, and it is no longer blocking the stomach acid. Lastly, as your uterus and baby grow they can start to crowd the space in your stomach and push acids upward. This is why acid reflux during pregnancy is most common during the third trimester.
How to prevent acid reflux during pregnancy
Many find that a few dietary changes make a big difference during pregnancy. These include:
Eating several small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones.
Hydrating between your meals, but not with meals.
Avoid fried, spicy, or fatty foods.
Avoid citrus fruits and juices.
Limiting caffeine and sodas or carbonated drinks.
In addition to dietary habits, some of these practices regarding your meals can also help prevent heartburn during pregnancy:
Sitting up straight when you eat.
Avoid late light meals.
Avoid lying down right after eating.
If you get heartburn most often at night when you’re in bed, try propping yourself up with pillows under your head and shoulders. This will help prevent stomach acids from rising into your chest.
How can I relieve my heartburn while pregnant?
If prevention methods did not work for you, here are some remedies that work for most of my clients.
Having just a few bites of ice cream or sips of cold milk cools down your digestive system, aids in digestion, and lowers the chances of suffering from acidity post-dinner. While this trick works for most of my clients, everybody is different. For some, cold dairy products like ice cream can actually numb and inhibit the lower esophageal sphincter's function. As a result, stomach acid can backwash up into the esophagus much easier.
My thought is this is a cheap option that most people have on hand. If this works, great! If not, check out one of the remedies below.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid and enzymes that can help to regulate stomach acid levels. Since it contains high acid levels, you should take one tablespoon at a time.
The best type of apple cider vinegar is the kind that still contains beneficial bacteria often referred to as “the mother”. Dilute one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in one cup of water. The best time to take apple cider vinegar is before a meal to prevent heartburn from occurring in the first place. Be careful not to overdo it. A maximum per day should be around 2 tablespoons or 30 milliliters.
If you don’t like the taste of diluted apple cider vinegar you can always try apple cider vinegar capsules or gummies. Here are two brands I recommend for apple cider vinegar capsules and gummies (please note, these are paid links).
Deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) licorice helps relieves symptoms of heartburn and repairs the lining of the digestive tract. This isn’t any licorice you find at the candy store. Only deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) licorice contains medicinal properties that will relieve acid reflux. Try taking one 400mg (10:1 extract) chewable tablet 20 minutes prior to meals or before bedtime. This is a deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) licorice supplement (paid link) that combines aloe vera to help soothe digestion.
Papaya contains proteolytic enzymes which break down proteins into smaller peptides, and this helps your body digest your food more efficiently. You can purchase chewable tablets of papaya enzymes and take them after meals to help prevent or stop heartburn.
If there is calcium in your papaya enzyme supplement, like this one (paid link), be sure to take them 2 hours before or after any iron supplements since they will cancel each other out when consumed together. When purchasing chewable papaya enzymes, be sure to check the label to make sure the supplement you purchase is actual papaya enzymes and not just calcium carbonate disguised as papaya enzymes. While calcium carbonate can help reduce heartburn, its not good in high quantities during pregnancy. See more below where I reference Tums.
Eating a handful of raw almonds also helps to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux. Much like milk, almonds are high in calcium which provides almost instant relief. Try eating 10 raw almonds and see if that gives you some relief. Roasted almonds won't contain as much calcium so be sure to get raw almonds.
Tums or any form of chewable calcium carbonate can help with heartburn. It’s fine to take a few chewable tablets at night but be cognizant of your intake. In the end, this is a cheap form of calcium and it can build up on the placenta when taken too frequently.
If you’re still struggling and you would like to go on medication, consider asking your provider about H2 blockers
Disclaimer: This information does not substitute for a care provider-patient relationship and should not be relied on as personal medical advice. When considering adding supplements to your diet it’s important to read the labels and consult your provider.
a free gift for you!
Ease your labor pains naturally without asking for an epidural.
Meet the Author
Clara O'Rourke (she hers),
Holistic Doula & Childbirth Educator.
I am a researcher turned total birth nerd with a passion for supporting people birth in their full power! I guide people through their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum journey by helping them overcome fear or anxiety about birth, providing evidence-based information so they can make informed decisions, and ensuring they have everything they need to birth with confidence. Birth is sacred and it should be treated that way. I am committed to providing support for birth and beyond, regardless of a person's background, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or relationship status. También ofrezco mis servicios en español. I wish you and your growing family the brightest of beginnings!