For many people, pregnancy can cause different problems and heartburn is one of them.
Uncomfortable and frustrating, heartburn can make you forget about the pleasure of being pregnant as your mind becomes occupied by the pain and burning sensation in your chest.
There are two main causes of heartburn during pregnancy – the ongoing hormonal changes in the body and the increasing pressure on the stomach from the growing womb.
The hormonal changes in the body can cause the muscles in the esophagus to relax more frequently. This allows stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus, especially when you’re lying down to take a nap or after you’ve eaten a large meal.
With each passing day, your uterus expands to accommodate the growth of your baby. This means your stomach is under more pressure, which also results in food and acid being pushed back up into your esophagus.
It’s common to have heartburn during the first and third trimesters, but it doesn’t mean you have to just bear with it throughout your pregnancy.
While medicines are not recommended for pregnancy-related heartburn as they can have lasting effects on the unborn baby, there are many simple things that can help you deal with this problem and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Here are the top 10 ways to treat heartburn during pregnancy.
1. Eat Less, But More Often
When you are pregnant, you start paying more attention to your diet so your baby stays healthy. But this does not mean that you need to eat for two, it is just an unwarranted pregnancy myth. In fact, overeating is a big “NO” as it can worsen the symptoms of heartburn.
One of the best things you can do is eat less, more often. Having several small meals throughout the day not only helps keep acid at bay, it helps prevent morning sickness as well.
Pregnant or not, an overly stuffed stomach can contribute to heartburn. Instead of three square meals a day, try five or six smaller ones.
Take your time to finish your food and make sure to chew thoroughly. Also, avoid eating a heavy meal 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. Heartburn symptoms can worsen if you lay down soon after finishing your dinner.
2. Sleep on Your Left Side
Whether it is during pregnancy or any other time, health experts recommend sleeping on your left side.
Lying on your left side at night may decrease acid reflux, as it is more difficult for acid to flow into the esophagus while you’re in this position.
In pregnant women, a left-sided sleeping position will also prevent the liver from putting pressure on the uterus and also promote blood flow to the fetus.
Plus, it may help relieve back pain and help you enjoy much-needed sleep.
A 2000 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology reports that increased esophageal acid exposure can be seen in the right recumbent position relative to the left recumbent position (1).
3. Chew Gum
Chewing gum after eating can help prevent heartburn, which is just one of the many discomforts that you will face during pregnancy. It stimulates your salivary glands, and saliva can help neutralize the acid that has backed up into the esophagus.
A few studies have shown that chewing gum reduces acidity in the esophagus.
A 2001 study published in the Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics reports that chewing gum after a meal helps reduce postprandial esophageal acid exposure (2).
Similarly, a 2005 study published in the Journal of Dental Research found that chewing sugar-free gum for 30 minutes after a meal can reduce acidic postprandial esophageal reflux (3).
Keep sugar-free gum handy and chew a piece for about 30 minutes after finishing your meal.
4. Elevate the Head of Your Bed
To prevent heartburn while sleeping, you can raise the head of your bed. Elevation will prevent acid from flowing back up into the esophagus. Plus, it will prevent swelling in the legs.
A 2006 analysis of controlled studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that elevating the head of the bed is an effective strategy to reduce acid reflux symptoms and heartburn at night (4).
Try to raise the head of your bed about 2 feet. Also, you can use a wedge-shaped, foam rubber pad to elevate your upper body. Avoid using only pillows to elevate the upper body, as it will put pressure on the stomach and aggravate your symptoms.
5. Sip on Water
Sipping small amounts of water throughout the day is another simple and effective way to keep heartburn under control during pregnancy.
Consistent intake of water keeps things flushing through your gastrointestinal tract and hydrates your system, which will reduce heartburn.
However, avoid drinking too much water at once. Gulping a lot of water in one sitting will you’re your stomach upwards, which in turn will only increase the risk of heartburn.
Apart from water, include more liquid-based food in your diet, as they move through the stomach more quickly than solid food. Include liquid food like soups, smoothies, yogurt, milkshakes, protein shakes and puddings in your diet.
6. Consume Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is one of the best things you can have to control heartburn during pregnancy.
Even though apple cider vinegar is acidic, it helps balance the acid production in the stomach or buffer the acid activity.
Apple cider vinegar is also good your health and the baby growing inside your womb.
- Simply add 1 to 2 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of water.
- Drink it 30 minutes before eating a meal.
- Do this on a regular basis.
7. Drink Coconut Water
Tender coconut water acts as a great natural acid neutralizer. Coconut water is readily available in the market and may help a lot in getting relief from heartburn symptoms during pregnancy.
Coconut water also prevents indigestion. Moreover, this natural, nutrient-rich isotonic drink is high in electrolytes, which help prevent dehydration.
Always keep tender coconut water at home and drink to enjoy its benefits during pregnancy.
8. Drink Ginger Tea
Ginger is also good during pregnancy to control heartburn. It even helps combat nausea and vomiting, which often go hand in hand with heartburn.
The active components like volatile oils and phenol compounds in gingerroot influence the stomach and intestines. This, in turn, helps reduce heartburn, nausea, and vomiting.
- Drink warm ginger tea after having your meal. To make the tea, add 1 teaspoon of grated ginger to a cup of hot water. Let it steep for 10 minutes, strain and enjoy it while it is still warm. Drink no more than 2 cups of ginger tea a day.
- You can also try ginger candies to soothe heartburn.
9. Avoid Citrus Fruits
Being rich in vitamin C, citrus fruits are often recommended for pregnant women. But if you’re experiencing frequent heartburn, avoid citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits.
Citrus fruits are high in acid and can irritate the digestive tract. This, in turn, can worsen heartburn symptoms, especially when eaten on an empty stomach.
Avoid these fruits in both whole and juice form. Instead, eat fruits that are less acidic to satisfy your daily fruit requirements. High-alkaline fruits like apples, pears, bananas, and melons are some good options.
10. Avoid Raw Onions
In some pregnant women, raw onions can be another common trigger for heartburn. Raw onions can increase the acid content of the stomach as well as slow down the emptying of your stomach.
Plus, intake of raw onions can cause digestive acids to flow back up into your esophagus.
A 1990 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology reports a significant increase in heartburn in people suffering from acid reflux when eating a meal containing raw onions as compared to an identical meal that didn’t contain onions (5).
If eating raw onions makes your heartburn symptoms worse, avoid it. Like onions, garlic can also worsen reflux symptoms in some people and also cause food aversions during pregnancy.
- Avoid spicy, greasy, and fatty foods, which are well-known triggers for heartburn.
- Eating yogurt or drinking a glass of cold milk can help reduce the symptoms.
- Slow down when you eat. Eating too quickly can lead to heartburn.
- Avoid drinking large amounts of liquids after your dinner.
- Stay away from coffee, colas, and alcoholic beverages.
- Include fiber-rich foods in your diet to avoid constipation.
- After eating your dinner, take a walk before going to bed.
- After meals, avoid activities that require you to bend over.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing, as tight-fitting clothes can increase the pressure on your stomach and abdomen.
- Do not smoke.
- Ask your doctor before using any kind of medicine.