May 27, 2016 5 min read

As if being pregnant isn’t hard enough, up to 80% of pregnant women report experiencing some degree of heartburn symptoms as a result of gestational acid reflux. Why is this so common? During pregnancy, hormonal changes cause the muscles at the lower end of the esophagus, known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), to relax due to an increase in maternal estrogen and progesterone.

This relaxation allows stomach acid and contents to escape through the LES back up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest and even regurgitation, coughing, and choking. These hormonal changes also decrease gastric motility, or the esophagus’s ability to return reflux to the stomach, which can increase the amount of time acid lingers in the esophagus, as well as increase symptom frequency.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at pregnancy heartburn and, more importantly, pregnancy heartburn relief.Use the links below to navigate ahead, or read through for a more in-depth overview of acid reflux during pregnancy.

What is Pregnancy Heartburn and What Causes it?

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux and indigestion characterized by a burning feeling in the chest and throat. This uncomfortable feeling is a result of acid escaping the stomach and traveling back up through the esophagus, eating away at its lining.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology 1, approximately 60 million Americans experience heartburn symptoms at least once per month, making it a relatively common occurrence amongst the general population. However, pregnant women tend to experience heartburn in much higher rates; one study 2 suggests between 17 and 45% of pregnant women deal with heartburn symptoms during their pregnancy.

statistics of women who experience reflux during pregnancy infographic

Why does pregnancy heartburn happen? Stanford Children’s Health3 says the reasoning isn’t completely clear. However, pregnancy hormones, such as progesterone, may be to blame. Hormones such as progesterone can cause the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax when it shouldn’t. The LES is a circular muscle that acts as a valve between the stomach and the esophagus; when it relaxes, stomach acid and partially digested foods can slip through into the esophagus, causing heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms. Additionally, some attribute the added weight and pressure of the pregnancy to increased heartburn symptoms.   

Identifying pregnancy heartburn

Pregnancy heartburn symptoms 4 can feel like:

  • A burning sensation in the chest, typically after eating
  • Chest pain 
  • A burning feeling in the throat
  • Sour, hot, or salty-tasting liquid in the back of the throat
  • Belching
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing

Note:Some women report that their symptoms are triggered or worsen after bending over, lying down, or eating.

How common is heartburn in early pregnancy and late pregnancy?

As we mentioned, heartburn during pregnancy is quite common. However, most women experience heartburn during the second and third trimesters 5 of their pregnancy. This is likely due to the increased pressure the growing uterus applies to the intestines and stomach.

infographic of heartburn trimesters

 

Pregnancy Heartburn Relief Tips for Expecting Mothers

Now that you know a little bit more about what it means to have heartburn during pregnancy, let’s talk about how you can find pregnancy heartburn relief using natural remedies.

Preventative heartburn treatments

Getting ahead of heartburn symptoms is the best way to find relief! Use these preventative care tips to avoid triggering symptoms:

  • Avoid heartburn-inducing foods, such as:
    • Spicy sauces and seasonings
    • Greasy, fried, fatty foods
    • Highly-acidic foods (i.e., citrus fruits and tomatoes)
    • Caffeine
    • Carbonated beverages
  • Opt for smaller meals throughout the day, instead of large meals
  • Don’t rush through meals, do your best to eat slowly 
  • Drink water between, rather than during meals
  • Try to stand or sit upright after a meal, as lying down may cause the LES to relax and cause heartburn
  • Use a pregnancy pillow to keep your body in a neutral, comfortable position while sleeping 
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes so that you don’t add any additional pressure to your abdominal area
  • Manage your stress to quell symptoms

Pregnant woman taking antacid

 

How to relieve heartburn symptoms during pregnancy

If you’re already experiencing a case of heartburn, use these natural remedies for pregnancy heartburn6 to find relief:

  • Ginger: Alkaline foods, such as ginger, can help curb inflammation and soothe the digestive tract. Adding whole ginger into your diet is one way to prevent and alleviate heartburn symptoms during your pregnancy.
  • Milk: Having a glass of milk after a meal or while you’re experiencing heartburn can help cool or quell acid reflux symptoms.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Although apple cider vinegar tastes pretty acidic, its composition is actually pretty neutral, which makes it a great candidate for balancing out stomach acids. The less acid in your stomach, the lower the potential for heartburn symptoms to occur.
  • Pineapple and papaya: These two fruits are known to speed up the digestive process, which, in turn, can lower the likelihood that you’ll have heartburn after eating.
  • Exercise: After eating, try to take a 10-15 minute walk to promote digestion and mitigate feelings of heartburn.
  • Sleep at an incline: Physicians say sleeping on your left side and at an incline is the best sleeping posture for heartburn relief. Heartburn happens when stomach acid travels upward into your esophagus, so positioning your body where gravity can help is a great way to find relief. Click here to learn how MedCline’s Reflux Relief System can help.

Note:Before testing out natural remedies or over-the-counter options to deal with heartburn while pregnant, be sure to consult your doctor. 

How MedCline’s Reflux Relief System Can Help

Our patented acid reflux pillow is the only solution on the market that uses the left, inclined sleeping posture recommended by physicians for heartburn relief. Engineered with medical grade materials, protective casing, and three sizing options, our Reflux Relief System is the ideal solution for women experiencing pregnancy heartburn, or those with generic acid reflux symptoms.

Clinically-proven results

A recent clinical trial presented by Cleveland Clinic at The American Congress of Obstetricians and 

Gynecologists Conference (ACOG 2016) in Washington DC showed that the MedCline Reflux Relief System reduced gestational reflux symptoms by 70% after only 2 weeks of use.


The study also found that with MedCline, these women, in their second or third trimesters, were able to fall asleep easier, fall asleep faster and reported an overall improvement in sleep quality. MedCline offers a proven, natural treatment for women suffering from nighttime gestational reflux.


The findings of this study are consistent with previous studies showing the significant improvement in nighttime symptoms experienced by the inclined, left-side sleeping position created and maintained only by MedCline.

pregnant woman drinking water

 

Key Takeaways

  • Pregnancy heartburn affects between 17 and 45% of pregnant women and is most common during the second and third trimesters.
  • Heartburn symptoms during pregnancy can be characterized by a burning sensation in the chest or throat, coughing, hoarseness, wheezing, and more.
  • Pregnant women can find heartburn relief by taking preventative actions, such as avoiding triggering foods, wearing loosely-fit clothing, and enlisting the help of our Reflux Relief System.

Want to learn more about how MedCline can help? Speak to one of our Sleep Specialists today!

References

  1. “Acid Reflux,” American College of Gastroenterology,https://gi.org/topics/acid-reflux/#:~:text=More%20than%2060%20million%20Americans,the%20elderly%20and%20pregnant%20women, 28 Sep. 2020
  2. “Heartburn in Pregnancy,” US National Library of Medicine,https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562453/#:~:text=Heartburn%20is%20one%20of%20the,72%25%20in%20the%20third%20trimester., 28 Sep. 2020
  3. “Pregnancy and Heartburn,” Stanford Children’s Health, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=pregnancy-and-heartburn-134-10, 28 Sep. 2020
  4. “Pregnancy and Heartburn,” WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/what-is-heartburn#:~:text=Continued-,Symptoms%20of%20Heartburn%20During%20Pregnancy,over%2C%20lying%20down%2C%20or%20eating, 28 Sep. 2020
  5. “Heartburn During Pregnancy,” American Pregnancy Association,https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/heartburn-during-pregnancy-982, 28 Sep. 2020
  6. “6 Natural Heartburn Remedies During Pregnancy,” Today’s Parent, https://www.todaysparent.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/natural-heartburn-remedies-pregnancy/ , 28 Sep. 2020