Heartburn

They might seem like low-level pregnancy symptoms but gastric issues can be seriously painful. Here’s what you need to know.

What are the symptoms of heartburn or acid reflux?

Heartburn feels like a strong burning sensation in the chest and can be extremely uncomfortable. It is also known as acid reflux and indigestion (NHS Choices, 2017).

Heartburn can show itself as a discomfort (especially after eating), bloating, wind, burping and nausea. You’ll be able to compare notes with a lot of other mum friends as up to eight out of ten pregnant women get heartburn (NICE, 2017).

What causes heartburn in pregnancy?

Heartburn is caused by the valve between your stomach and the tube leading to it relaxing during pregnancy due to hormonal changes (NHS Choices, 2017). This means stomach acid can pass into the tube and cause the burning feeling.

In later stages of pregnancy, your growing uterus can press on your stomach and make the problem worse.

Is heartburn harmful to me or the baby?

No. It feels horrible but isn’t doing you or the baby any harm. Occasionally, gastric symptoms are signs of a more serious underlying condition. Chat to your midwife or GP if your symptoms are sudden or severe (NHS Choices, 2017).

How to stop heartburn and indigestion

Try the following as your first port of call.

  • Avoid large meals and eat smaller ones more often – about every three hours.
  • No midnight feasts. Don’t eat late at night or three hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid triggers like fatty and spicy foods, chocolate, caffeine and fizzy drinks or fruit juice. Keep a food diary to identify triggers
  • Raise the head of your bed by 10 cm to 15 cm, or sleep propped up on lots of pillows.
  • Avoid medication that may cause or worsen symptoms, if appropriate. Discuss it with your doctor before stopping any prescribed medications
  • Stop smoking.
  • Try acupuncture – it might help you sleep better through the symptoms.

    (Phupong and Hanprasertpong, 2015; NHS Choices, 2017; NICE, 2017)

Ask your GP or midwife for advice if symptoms of heartburn persist. Your heartburn may not be completely relieved by medication but your doctor or midwife can prescribe an antacid that is safe during pregnancy.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support in all aspects of being pregnant, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

NICE. (2017) Dyspepsia - pregnancy-associated. Available from: https://cks.nice.org.uk/dyspepsia-pregnancy-associated#!scenario [Accessed 3rd March 2018].

NHS Choices. (2017) Indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/indigestion-heartburn-… [Accessed 3rd March 2018].

Phupong V, Hanprasertpong T. (2015) Interventions for heartburn in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Sep 19;(9):CD011379. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD011379.pub2. Available from: http://www.cochrane.org/CD011379/PREG_interventions-heartburn-pregnancy [Accessed 3rd March 2018].

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