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Feeling the burn – What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy?

Feeling the burn, baby? And you’re not alone: Nearly half of expectant moms have also been feeling your pain — probably for most of their pregnancies.




Now that we’ve got that truth told, here’s a rundown on why heartburn is so prevalent during pregnancy and some ideas on how to keep it at bay.



When you are growing a baby, the placenta that’s tucked neatly inside you is producing lots of the hormone progesterone.  The good news is that progesterone helpfully relaxes and smooths your uterine muscles to help make room for baby. The less good news is that it relaxes the valve that separates your oesophagus from your stomach, too. This means that gastric acid can seep back up through the now-relaxed valve and cause what we know as heartburn.

What’s more, you’ll feel a surge starting around week 30 to week 36, when your gigantic uterus (which has taken over your abdominal cavity) forces your stomach upwards toward your throat (at least that’s the way it can feel).



The chances of having a completely heartburn-free pregnancy are slim to none. The good news, it’s not permanent and should disappear soon after your delivery. In the meantime, there are plenty of preventive measures and soothing strategies you can try.


What does heartburn feel like?

If you have heartburn, you’ll feel an uncomfortable, burning sensation in your chest and this may work its way up to your throat. Heartburn can feel worse when you are lying down or when you are bending over.


Does heartburn harm my baby?

No. Not at all. Your baby is completely oblivious to the burning sensation you are experiencing.


  • Break it up. It’s a good idea to eat smaller meals – but more regularly – to avoid the dreaded burn. Five or six small portions could replace the usual burn-inducing and generous three meals. Also chew slowly – chewing is the first step in the digestive process, but the one that’s most often neglected when eating’s done on the run. The more you chew, the less work your stomach has to do. Plus when you eat too quickly, you often swallow air, which can form gas pockets in your belly.
  • Avoid heartburn-trigger foods . It’s thought that coffee, tea, chocolate, tomatoes, spicy foods and fried foods make heartburn worse. However, everyone is different though, so keep a food diary and make note of what you ate and how you felt, to pinpoint problem foods you might want to temporarily avoid.
  • Sit up and eat. Make sure to sit upright while eating — and stay that way for a couple of hours after you eat. Lying down, slouching, slumping, and stooping will do you in. And when you have to bend, do it with your knees instead of at your waist (or you’ll send all that acid for a repeat ride up your esophagus).Even if you’ve put a few hours between your last mealtime and bedtime try sleeping with your head elevated about six inches. This helps to keep those gastric juices where they belong.
  • Drink before and after meals. And try not to drink while you’re eating– or if you do, just drink a little. Too much fluid mixed with too much food will distend the stomach, aggravating heartburn.
  • Watch your weight. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can cause significant amount of heartburn. Try to stay within the recommended weight range.
  • Think loose and flowing. For heartburn relief during pregnancy, wear clothes that breathe.


Is there any treatment for pregnancy heartburn?

If your heartburn is persistent, you may want to talk to your doctor. However, if you want to avoid over-the-counter remedies, you can try the following popular folk remedies for heartburn relief during pregnancy instead.


  • Papaya: Make sure the papaya is very ripe; unripe papaya may cause uterine contractions. Or ask your practitioner about the safety of using chewable papaya enzymes. (You can find these in health-food stores.)
  • Almonds: Good for calcium as well as being a stomach-settler.
  • A tablespoon of honey in warm milk: Yummy and relaxing. Some say all dairy helps, and others say the opposite. (At the very least you’ll get in your calcium.)


Did you experience heartburn during pregnancy? Perhaps it’s happening to you right now?! What worked for you?