Why do you experience heartburn in pregnancy?

Heartburn is one of the symptoms of indigestion and is common during pregnancy, partly due to the hormonal fluctuations in the first trimester and the growing womb pushing on the stomach as the baby develops.

 

Heartburn can be caused by lifestyle and diet habits as well as hormones and added pressure from a growing womb. By making changes to your lifestyle and diet you can better prevent heartburn triggers and manage heartburn pain and discomfort.
You are at a higher risk of suffering from indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy if:

 

  • This is not your first pregnancy
  • You have suffered from indigestion and heartburn previous to your pregnancy
  • You are in the later stages of your pregnancy (from 27 weeks onwards1)

Symptoms of heartburn during pregnancy

The main symptom of heartburn is pain or a feeling of discomfort in your chest (usually behind the breastbone) - the same away as when you were not pregnant. Symptoms are most commonly felt soon after drinking or eating. However, there are times this occur later in between eating a meal and developing indigestion.
You may experience heartburn at any point during your pregnancy. But your symptoms may be more frequent and severe during the later stage of pregnancy, from 27 weeks1 onwards. Pain in your upper abdomen or heartburn may cause the following:
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Burning feeling in the chest or throat
  • Tightening feeling in the chest or throat
  • Sore throat

When to seek medical help?

Heartburn is very common but sometimes can be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as a stomach ulcer.
If your heartburn continues to persist or are worried about it, please consult your doctor. Other symptoms to look out for that might require further medical attention include:
  • Symptoms developing for the first time in mid or later life
  • Symptoms persisting for more than 7 days
  • Abdominal pain before or after meals
  • Persistent feeling of fullness, bloating or flatulence
  • Nausea or vomiting - particularly if it has bright red blood or dark brown bits in it
  • Ongoing loss of appetite/continued unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent diarrhea, constipation or any changes in bowel habit
  • Change in stools (bowel motions) especially if they become black, dark red, pale or contain mucus (slime)
  • Bleeding or pain when you defacate
  • Generally feeling tired, lethargic or unwell associated with any abdominal symptoms

Causes of heartburn during pregnancy

The two main causes of heartburn in pregnancy are:
  1. Hormonal changes during pregnancy

    The surge in the hormone progesterone causes muscles to relax. This includes the sphincter (ring of muscle) at the entrance to the stomach. When this relaxes, stomach acids are able to travel back up into the esophagus (food pipe) causing painful heartburn.
  2. The growing fetus physically exerts pressure on your digestive tract

    During the latter stages of pregnancy, symptoms can be caused by the growing womb (uterus). As the baby grows, it physically exerts pressure on your digestive tract.
Other causes & triggers of heartburn during pregnancy
Heartburn tends to have similar triggers such as lifestyle and diet choices. A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for anyone, but it is vital when pregnant. Being careful of what you eat during pregnancy will help your baby develop and grow, as well as reduce the risks of heartburn.
The key heartburn triggers to watch out for when pregnant include:1
  • Black pepper, garlic, raw onions and other spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits and products, such as oranges and orange juice
  • Coffee and caffeinated drinks, including softdrinks
  • Peppermint
  • Large meals
  • Fatty foods
  • Late night snacks

How to treat heartburn during pregnancy

Now the various heartburn triggers have been identified, making changes to your lifestyle and diet is one of the most effective ways to help reduce the risks of suffering from heartburn during pregnancy. Here are some tips to prevent indigestion and heartburn:
  • Keep your weight in track
  • There is no need to “eat for two” when pregnant - eat smaller meals more frequently during the day
  • Take your time eating - chew every mouthful slowly, this will help break down the food into smaller pieces which aids digestion
  • Avoid spicy, acidic and fatty food because these can aggravate the stomach lining and cause more stomach acid to be produced
  • Sit up straight when you eat – avoid lying on the sofa or bed if you can help it
  • Loosen clothes or belts that are too tight, opt for loose-fitting maternity wear
  • Don't eat late or when on the run – take time for your meals
  • Try not to take big gulps of liquid, sip instead
  • If you are prone to night time symptoms, slightly prop yourself up in bed
  • Cut down on alcohol, caffeine and softdrinks

Over-the-counter remedies for heartburn during pregnancy

Gaviscon Double Action is suitable to use during pregnancy because it works in two ways to relieve the symptoms of heartburn.
  1. Starts to neutralize excess stomach acid in as fast as 5 minutes.
  2. Forms a film over the contents of the stomach which help prevents acid coming back up into the esophagus (food pipe)
Sodium Alginate + Sodium Bicarbonate + Calcium Carbonate is the generic name of Gaviscon Double Action.
If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
ASC Reference code: R009101217G
References:

Gaviscon Products suitable for pregnancy

Gaviscon

Gaviscon

For fast and long lasting relief from heartburn.

Gaviscon Double Action

Gaviscon Double Action

  • Dual relief from heartburn and Indigestion.