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Heartburn During Pregnancy

Overview

Heartburn is common during pregnancy. That's because hormones cause the digestive system to slow down. The muscles that push food down the esophagus also move more slowly when you are pregnant. And as the uterus grows, it presses on the stomach. This can sometimes force stomach acid up into the esophagus.

Heartburn may start at any time during pregnancy. And it often gets worse as pregnancy progresses. Heartburn usually improves or goes away after childbirth.

Heartburn can be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The same measures used to treat GERD can help pregnant women with heartburn. These focus first on making lifestyle changes, such as changing your eating habits. Some nonprescription medicines are generally safe during pregnancy. But talk to your doctor before you use them.

How is heartburn treated?

Treatment for pregnant women with heartburn focuses first on making lifestyle changes. These are things like changing what and how you eat. It also focuses on taking nonprescription antacids.

Some doctors may recommend the prescription drug sucralfate, along with lifestyle changes and nonprescription medicines.

The medicines listed below are generally safe during pregnancy. But talk to your doctor before you use them.

  • H2 blockers. Examples are cimetidine (such as Tagamet) and famotidine (such as Pepcid).
  • Proton pump inhibitors. Examples are omeprazole (such as Prilosec) and lansoprazole (such as Prevacid).

What can you do to feel better?

Heartburn is very common during pregnancy. Here are some things that can help.

  • Eat small meals.

    Try 4 to 5 smaller meals instead of 2 or 3 large ones.

  • Cut back on drinks with caffeine.

    These include coffee, tea, and some sodas.

  • Avoid foods that have a lot of acid.

    These include tomatoes and oranges.

  • Cut out chocolate, peppermint, and spicy foods.
  • Stay upright after meals.

    Sit up for at least an hour. Or try going for a walk.

  • Try antacids.

    Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, and Tums are good choices. Don't take antacids that have sodium bicarbonate or magnesium trisilicate.

  • Take steps to sleep more comfortably.
    • Raise the head of your bed 6 in. (15 cm) to 8 in. (20 cm). Put the bed frame on blocks. Or place a foam wedge under the head of your mattress. (Adding extra pillows doesn't work.)
    • Eat dinner earlier. Try to eat at least 2 hours before bed.

Credits

Current as of: February 23, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine
Arvydas D. Vanagunas MD - Gastroenterology

 

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