Heartburn and acid reflux is a very normal part of pregnancy. Almost every woman experiences heartburn at the very end of their pregnancy, although some women experience longer and stronger than others.
The hormone Relaxin, which increases in production during pregnancy up to ten times, is responsible for softening and lengthening the cervix, as well as loosing the joints in your pelvis. Ideal moves for delivering a human being. All though centered around your pelvis, Relaxin does affect all the other muscles, joints and ligaments in your body. It is Relaxin that contributes to a sense of unsteady balance, that and your changing center of gravity, and clumsiness.
The increase in Relaxin is also why you are advised to take it easy on exercise during your pregnancy, particularly in early pregnancy, as the hormone can make it very easy to over-stress or strain your muscles and ligaments.
However, Relaxin also softens the muscles of the esophagus and the valve at the top of the stomach, which allows that stomach acid to creep up and cause heartburn.
In combination with your looser esophagus, your baby is growing larger everyday and pushing your stomach up and out of their way. This means that by the end of your pregnancy, your stomach acid is being squeezed up your esophagus, which is shorter and much looser than usual. Which results in heartburn.
Most pregnant women experience heartburn in their last month of pregnancy, when baby is largest, and the symptoms soon go away after birth.
However, not every woman experiences pregnancy, or heartburn, the same way- and if you’re anything like me, you’re jealous of the women whom only experience it for a short time, or not at all. I began having heartburn at month 5- half of my pregnancy has involved the lovely taste of stomach acid.
Unfortunately, when you experience heartburn earlier in your pregnancy, you are frequently confronted with this lovely gem of advice:
“It’s only going to get worse. Much worse.”
Unsurprisingly, when you’re breathing fire and fighting stomach acid, the thought of experiencing more pain and discomfort isn’t comforting.
In addition, when you do find yourself frantically searching “Heartburn Relief Pregnancy”, the top results that you get are typically going to be advice on how to avoid heartburn- but what about when you already have heartburn?
Here we go:
*Disclaimer: Consult your medical professional before trying any of these solutions. Every woman and every pregnancy is different, the items on this list are merely what worked best for me. Please use caution and judgement when taking advice from the internet.*
What Can Help Relieve Heartburn
Although you’re probably tired of hearing it, increasing your water intake does help. Drinking water when experiencing heartburn can lessen, and sometimes stop, the discomfort. And more water is good for you.
Tums have been a great solace during my pregnancy. I keep a bottle in the office, and one by my nightstand. It works in seconds and really helps to get you through the worse of the pain.
Antacids, such as Tums, that are composed of Calcium Carbonate provide safe relief for pregnant women. When pregnant, your body may need between 1,000 mg and 1,300 mg of calcium a day. Be sure to only take no more than 5 tablets a day, and don’t take them at the same time as your prenatal vitamins or iron supplements, as the calcium could bind.
In light of the limit of 5 tums in a 24 hour period, I chew 1 tablet at a time to stretch out the effects of the heart burn relief.
3. Pepcid AC (Famotidine).
Best used as heartburn prevention, Pepcid is great for relieving heartburn as well.
For relief: swallow 1 tab with a glass of water. Do not chew.
For prevention: swallow 1 tab with a glass of water 10 to 60 minutes before eating or drinking.
Do not take more than 2 tablets in 24 hours.
When may heartburn started to get really intense, my doctor recommended Pepcid. You can take Tums with Pepcid, if necessary, but make sure to follow correct dosage on both products.
Unfortunately, heartburn has terrible timing, maybe you ran out of Tums before the end of the paycheck, or maybe it’s 3 am and all of the convenience stores are closed. Whatever the reason, if you find yourself suffering from heartburn without the relief of the above products, and water is not cutting it, there are a couple of homemade remedies you can try.
Neither of the below recipes are especially potent or long-lasting, but they may give you some temporary relief.
1. Milk and Bread.
A recipe from my uncle that suffered from acid reflux throughout his childhood, this recipe will likely be a great savior for late-night discomfort.
• Take a piece of bread.
• Shredded it up and place it in a large drinking glass.
• Pour milk over the bread.
• Let the bread soak up the milk.
• Drink the milk, slowly.
• Eat the bread.
The bread will be soggy, if texture bothers you. This recipe may work with non-lactose milk substitutes, I haven’t tried it.
2. Baking Soda and Water
By far the most unpleasant of the heartburn relief options, this recipe also requires the most care. Sodium bicarbonate is a natural antacid that may cause fluid retention in pregnant women, please use cautiously.
• Combine 1 tbsp of baking soda with 8 oz of water.
• Mix very well.
• Drink quickly.
The mixture will likely induce burping, but will relieve the pain. You may wish to combine the baking soda with less water, 4 oz, for a more intense but shorter dose.
To Prevent Heartburn:
No post about heartburn would be complete without including the list of how to prevent heartburn.
• carbonated drinks
• acidic foods, like citrus fruits and juices
• processed meats
• mint products
• spicy, highly seasoned, fried, or fatty foods
I freely admit that, despite my struggle with heartburn, I eat and drink a few items on this list. For me, pickles and mint tea (not together) were some of my greatest heartburn relief options. My best friend lived off of orange juice throughout her last pregnancy.
Every woman, and every pregnancy is different- do what works for you. And consult your healthcare professional.
- Eat smaller meals more frequently.
- Drink more fluids, slowly throughout the day. Avoid chugging.
- Try chewing gum after eating to activate your salivary glands.
- Don’t eat 2-3 hours before bedtime time.
- Sleep on your left side, propped up with several pillows.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
- Bend at the knees, rather than the waist.
Hopefully, these options provide you with some relief. Congratulations and good luck on your journey. And once again:
Every woman, and every pregnancy is different. Consult your healthcare professional and do what is right for you.