Heartburn during pregnancy


A woman's body undergoes many changes during pregnancy. Different hormones circulate in the body and organs shift to make space for the growing baby.

Heartburn is a very common complaint during pregnancy and it's often the direct result of these changes. Up to 80 percent of pregnant women will get heartburn, particularly towards the end of pregnancy in the final three months that are known as the last trimester.

What are the symptoms of heartburn?

When experiencing heartburn, you may feel a burning chest pain behind the ribs that goes up your food pipe (oesophagus) to your throat. You may also get feelings of nausea and a metallic taste in your mouth.

Why is heartburn common in pregnancy?

When you're pregnant, you're more likely to have indigestion because of:

• Pressure on your stomach caused by the baby

• The changing hormonal levels in your body

• Stomach acid rising up due to the muscles between your stomach and throat relaxing

The growing uterus also moves up from the pelvis to push on the stomach in the upper abdomen. This leaves little space for the stomach to sit comfortably and can also force stomach acid to move into the oesophagus. This is experienced as heartburn.

How can I manage symptoms of heartburn?

You can carry out a few lifestyle changes as a pregnant woman that may help considerably with your symptoms:

• Eat small regular meals. This avoids filling up your already squashed stomach. Take measured bites and drink slowly

• Refrain from eating up to three hours before bedtime

• Use two pillows to keep your head and shoulders above your chest when lying down to avoid acid going up the oesophagus

• Avoid bending or stooping positions

Which medicines can I take?

If lifestyle changes don't provide you with relief, you may want to consider taking a medicine to help with your heartburn. It's always important to check with your pharmacist or Doctor before taking any medicines during pregnancy.

Some types of antacids can be taken in pregnancy. These help neutralise excess acid, relieving symptoms. You can find antacids as chewable tablets or in liquid form. Check with your pharmacist which antacids are most suitable to be used in pregnancy.

If you're still getting symptoms, or you're vomiting frequently because of heartburn, it's best to speak with your midwife or Doctor who will be able to offer you further advice.

Next steps

• Eat small frequent meals and avoid lying down soon after. Use two pillows to elevate your head and shoulders above your chest when in bed. Avoid stooping or bending positions

• Consult your pharmacist for advice on antacids that are suitable to use in pregnancy

• If you're still getting symptoms, ask your midwife or Doctor for further advice