How to Relieve Heartburn in Pregnancy
Written by Dr. Shelly Ordon, November 2018.
Shelly Ordon is a Naturopathic Doctor and Birth Doula our of Ontario, Canada. Dr. Ordon is passionate about fertility, pregnancy, postpartum health and children. As an expert in nutrition, botanical herbs, acupuncture and homeopathy, Dr. Ordon helps patients restore their body and function more efficiently.
Revie more articles of Dr. Odon’s here.
Pregnancy symptoms vary from woman to woman, especially throughout the first trimester. However, as pregnancy progresses, many women start to experience similar concerns with heartburn being a major player. Old wives tales suggest heartburn is a sign that baby is growing hair – apparently some luscious locks! Physically speaking, as baby gets larger and the uterus expands, it begins to compress on major organs including the stomach, driving acid up the esophagus resulting in acid reflux and heartburn.
So is there anything that can be done to minimize the effects of heartburn? Unfortunately what works for one person doesn’t always work for everyone but implementing these strategies may make a world of difference to you.
1. Eat smaller meals throughout the day
Since the stomach is being compressed, the amount of room available for food to digest is reduced. Consuming smaller portions throughout the day will allow your body to breakdown food more efficiently in the space available. It’s better to eat more meals throughout the day in smaller quantities than it is to stick to the typical 3 larger meals a day.
2. Avoid lying down for at least 2 hours after eating
Lying down immediately or soon after a meal can cause stomach acid to enter the esophagus and cause heartburn. Try to sit upright after meals for a couple of hours, giving your digestive system time to break down food and move it through your digestive tract before attempting to move into a horizontal position. Most women complain of heartburn at night and this is often the reason why.
3. Sugar might be your enemy
Sugar weakens the lower esophageal sphincter and can encourage acid to enter the esophagus causing heartburn and reflux. While you may be experiencing food cravings that include refined sugar, try to minimize the amount consumed, especially at night.
4. Caffeine might be the culprit
Like sugar, caffeine can also cause heartburn. 200mg of caffeine is considered safe in pregnancy but if you're experiencing heartburn you may want to reduce or even eliminate caffeine all together.
5. Consider Supplements
There are a number of supplements that may be useful for treating heartburn. Slippery Elm lozenges, Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) and liquid calcium-magesium are the most commonly recommended. If you want to try supplementation be sure to speak with your healthcare provider, preferably a Naturopathic Doctor, who can safely recommend the best products for you.
6. Acupuncture might make all the difference
If you aren’t open to supplements, you may want to consider acupuncture. Studies have found that acupuncture can reduce heartburn by 75% in pregnant woman. It can also be used to treat a number of other pregnancy related concerns simultaneously making it an incredible treatment modality.
7. Chiropractic Care might also do the trick
Chiropractors can be magical for a pregnant woman! Misalignment of the spine can affect nerve functioning and cause symptoms such as heartburn. Chiropractic adjustments can potentially relieve digestive concerns and should be considered as part of a pregnant woman’s comprehensive care.
8. There is nothing wrong with taking Over-The-Counter Medications
If the only thing you have on hand are Tums, take them! A 1000mg tablet is safe to take, up to 6x/day. Ideally you want to avoid taking 6 Tums in a day but it’s always nice to have something in your back pocket. Other OTC meds that may be useful include Gavascon and Zantac.
9. Speak with your Healthcare Provider
If you have tried it all and nothing seems to be relieving your heartburn, speak with your OB-GYN, Midwife or General Practitioner. You may receive a prescription for Prevacid or Nexium. Always be sure to ask about a medications safety and side effects.
Do you have any other heartburn remedies that have been tried, tested and true? Leave a comment with what’s worked for you!