Each week of your pregnancy brings about so many amazing changes—one week your baby is the size of a mango and is starting to kick and the next he’s the size of a banana and is growing hair. With all the changes your body is experiencing and your growing baby bump however, chances are, you’ve also had some bothersome—albeit temporary— symptoms like heartburn. If that uncomfortable, burning sensation in your chest and throat feels like it will never go away, and you want to learn how to get rid of heartburn during pregnancy fast, the good news is there a ton of easy, simple strategies that can make a big difference.
In this post, I’ll cover:
1. How common pregnancy heartburn is and when it starts.
2. What causes heartburn during pregnancy.
3. How to get rid of heartburn during pregnancy fast, including the foods to try and those to avoid.
4. Do antacids work and are they safe to use during pregnancy?
5. Does heartburn during pregnancy mean your baby will be born with a lot of hair?
HOW COMMON IS PREGNANCY HEARTBURN?
Heartburn, also known as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux, is fairly common during pregnancy.
In fact, one study found up to 80% of women in the third trimester experience pregnancy heartburn.
Studies also show that older women are more likely to experience acid reflux, and experience it in subsequent pregnancies regardless of age.
Some women may also have heartburn caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a more severe form of reflux.
GERD is heartburn that occurs two to three times a week and includes other symptoms like nausea, bad breath, and respiratory problems, for example.
Although most women who are diagnosed with GERD during pregnancy never had heartburn before, a risk factor is having GERD before pregnancy.
WHEN DOES HEARTBURN START IN PREGNANCY?
Heartburn usually starts in the first or second trimester of pregnancy and can persist throughout your pregnancy.
The good news is that once you give birth, the symptoms usually go away and you’ll feel better.
WHAT CAUSES PREGNANCY HEARTBURN?
It’s not entirely clear why women experience pregnancy heartburn but experts say the reasons are complex and it’s likely that there are several factors.
For starters, progesterone, one of the pregnancy hormones that rise during pregnancy, causes the lower esophageal sphincter, (the muscles around the esophagus) to relax.
Progesterone also slows down digestion which keeps food in the stomach longer.
Another cause of pregnancy heartburn may be your growing belly, which increases abdominal pressure.
As a result, partially digested food and stomach acids flow back into the esophagus, causing that burning sensation in the chest and throat.
FOODS THAT CAUSE HEARTBURN DURING PREGNANCY
Certain foods can also trigger heartburn.
In the book, The Whole 9 Months, author Jennifer Lang, M.D. states that although pregnancy heartburn, gassiness, indigestion, constipation, and other bothersome symptoms start from weight gain and as the belly grows:
“I strongly believe that all of these symptoms are worsened by eating a lot of animal products. Meats (which are almost completely devoid of fiber) will sit in your digestive system longer, causing increased heartburn, constipation, and hemorrhoids.”
Additionally, spicy foods, greasy foods, processed meats, foods high in fat, foods that have caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate), and citrus foods can trigger heartburn.
HOW TO GET RID OF HEARTBURN DURING PREGNANCY FAST
The good news is that there are a lot of ways to cope with pregnancy heartburn and feel better.
Watch your weight gain
Your growing belly is a sign of a normal, healthy pregnancy and although it may be one of the reasons for your heartburn, you don’t want to exacerbate the problem further.
Extra pounds can put additional pressure on your abdomen and increase the chances of heartburn, so aim to keep your weight within the recommended guidelines.
Stick with a healthy diet, made up of mostly whole foods, and get enough exercise.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend women with normal, healthy pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most—or all days—of the week.
Avoid foods that trigger heartburn
Be mindful or keep a food journal of the foods that trigger heartburn for you.
Some may include:
- High-fat foods and desserts
- Spicy foods
- Oily and greasy foods
- Garlic and onions
- Full-fat dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, and sour cream
- Processed meats
- Processed snacks
- Citrus foods like tomatoes and tomato sauce, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, pineapple, and salsa
- Carbonated beverages like soda and seltzer
- Coffee, caffeinated beverages, and chocolate.
Practice portion control and space out meals
Instead of eating large meals, try to eat smaller, more frequent meals which may prevent heartburn.
Try 6 small meals, for example, rather than three square meals a day.
Don’t eat close too bedtime
One of the best ways to get rid of heartburn pregnancy fast is to eat your last meal of the day earlier and wait a few hours before going to bed.
A July 2020 study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that eating less than two hours before bedtime was a significant risk factor for frequent heartburn and reflux-related insomnia.
Elevate your head
Drink fluids in between meals
Drinking water is one of the best healthy habits to start during pregnancy but it can also aid digestion.
The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recommend pregnant women drink between 8 to 10 glasses of water a day however, you may find that drinking water in between meals, rather than with your meals, can help fight pregnancy heartburn.
Chew gum after eating
Chewing gum increases saliva production which helps to neutralize acid, soothe the esophagus, and wash the acid back down into the stomach.
It also encourages frequent swallowing which can clear reflux from the esophagus more quickly.
In fact, a November 2005 study in the Journal of Dental Research found that chewing sugar-free gum 30 minutes after a meal can reduce heartburn.
Avoid peppermint-flavored gum, however, which can make heartburn worse.
Avoid tight-fitting clothes
One of the best ways to prevent pregnancy heartburn is to avoid clothes that are too tight or put pressure on your abdomen.
Instead, wear comfortable, loose-fitting maternity clothes.
The dangers of smoking during pregnancy are well-known, but surprisingly, 7.1% of women continue to light up.
Quitting smoking is certainly challenging, but it can be done.
To learn more about how to quit smoking, check out resources from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
FOODS THAT HELP HEARTBURN
If you want to know how to get rid of heartburn during pregnancy fast, one of the best ways is to look at what you’re eating.
A good rule of thumb is to stick to whole foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Try to avoid processed foods and cook at home so you can control the ingredients.
Here’s a list of foods that help heartburn.
Foods that are a good source of complex carbohydrates are high in fiber, which can keep you feeling full and prevent overeating which can lead to heartburn.
- Fiber-rich fruits like apples, bananas, and raspberries.
- Fiber-rich vegetables like broccoli, kale, spinach, celery, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, and parsnip are all great choices.
- Whole-grain foods like oats, quinoa, brown rice, 100 percent whole wheat bread, buckwheat, whole-wheat pasta, and barley.
- Beans and legumes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes
If you have heartburn and morning sickness, ginger can do the trick because it’s anti-inflammatory and an ancient remedy for GI discomfort.
If you’re making a green smoothie in the morning, add some ginger.
Or you can grate ginger into a stir-fry, or sip on a soothing cup of warm ginger tea.
Bananas are not only a great source of potassium, but since they’re alkaline, they can fight acid reflux.
Add slices of banana to your morning oatmeal, make a healthy, high-fiber banana bread, or pair banana slices with some peanut or almond butter for a healthy snack.
Related: 10 Best Healthy Pregnancy Snacks
Fennel, or “Finacchio,” is an herb thought to cleanse the palette after a large meal—at least in many Italian-American families like mine.
Whether it’s an old wives’ tale or not, fennel is used to help relieve digestive issues including heartburn, gas, and bloating.
Fennel has a mild licorice taste and crunchy texture. You can consume it raw like celery, add it to salads, or sauté it with onions for a yummy side dish.
Watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew are all satisfying and refreshing when you’re pregnant and it’s also one of the foods that can prevent heartburn.
You can add parsley to salads, use it in sauces and marinades, dishes like soup, pasta, rice, and quiche, and it to green smoothies.
Milk and yogurt
Not only can dairy cause stomach upset in some people, but the fat in milk, particularly whole milk and 2%, can make heartburn worse.
Non-fat milk and low-fat yogurt, however, can temporarily act as a buffer between the stomach lining and acidic stomach contents and immediately alleviate heartburn, Ekta Gupta, M.B.B.S., M.D., a gastroenterologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine stated in this article.
When it comes to plant-based options, almond milk is alkaline so it can help heartburn, as well as a good source of calcium.
Enjoy a glass alone or use it to make a breakfast smoothie.
Non-fat Greek yogurt is also high in protein, but choose plain to avoid added sugars and add low-glycemic fruit like blueberries or raspberries instead which also have filling fiber.
Instead of fatty cuts of meat, opt for chicken, turkey, or lean cuts of beef which are all good sources of protein that will help you feel satiated and quell acid reflux.
If your budget allows, consider organic and grass-fed meat.
Also, avoid meats that are fried or have creamy or acidic sauces, which can cause acid reflux.
SAFE ANTACIDS DURING PREGNANCY
If your symptoms don’t improve after making these changes, talk to your OB/GYN or midwife about taking an over-the-counter antacid like Tums or Alka-Seltzer.
These antacids coat the lining of the esophagus and stomach, neutralize stomach acid, and are a quick and effective way to alleviate heartburn.
For approximately 30 to 50% of women, antacids will do the trick.
Antacids that are made up of aluminum, calcium, or magnesium hydroxides are considered safe during pregnancy.
However, high doses of antacids, and those that contain magnesium trisilicates and bicarbonate have been associated with certain risks, so it’s important to speak with your provider before you take an antacid.
It’s unclear whether proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec and Prevacid, and histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs) such as Pepcid and Zantac, for acid reflux are safe during pregnancy.
According to a January 2018 study in the journal Pediatrics, pregnant women who used PPIs and H2RAs were 45 percent more likely to have children with asthma than women who didn’t use these medicines.
HEARTBURN DURING PREGNANCY AND YOUR BABY’S HAIR
If you heard that heartburn during pregnancy means your baby will be born with a full head of hair, you may have wondered if it’s true or it’s simply an old wive’s tale.
Of 28 pregnant women in the study, 23 who had moderate or severe heartburn gave birth to babies with average or above average amounts of hair.
What’s more, 10 out of 12 of the women who had no heartburn during pregnancy had babies with less than average or no hair at all.
Whether heartburn has something to do with the amount of hair your baby will have or not doesn’t really matter but it’s still fun to imagine what your baby will look like when you finally get to meet him.