Pregnancy heartburn: Relief, symptoms and causes

Pregnancy heartburn

by Lorna White |
Updated on

Indigestion (also called heartburn or acid reflux) is one of the most common complaints during pregnancy, with 80% of women experiencing it at some point along their pregnancy journey.

Some women find they get that strong burning sensation after they eat, from just a few weeks into their pregnancy. For others, it becomes a problem later on when their bump is expanding and there seems to be no room for food.

But what is clear, is that most women will get indigestion at some point in their pregnancy, and it can be very very uncomfortable and can make you feel nauseous and bloated.

What are the symptoms of pregnancy heartburn?

According to the NHS, there are a few signs that you might be experiencing heartburn or indigestion. These include:

• Feeling full or bloated

• A burning sensation or pain in the chest

• Feeling sick or even being sick

• Increased burping

• Bringing up food

What are the causes of pregnancy heartburn?

There is no one cause of indigestion in pregnancy – it’s a mix ofhormones, your expanding womb pressing on your stomach and relaxing of muscles in the oesophagus which can let acid move back out of the stomach.

Did you know a pregnancy pillow can help with heartburn?

Ways to avoid pregnancy heartburn

Luckily antacids are one of the few medicines that are safe to take during pregnancy, but here are five other tips for avoiding that post-meal pain.

Find out what foods to eat to beat that burning sensation, what to avoid and other tricks for a happier tummy.


Switch to five or six small meals a day1 of 5

1) Switch to five or six small meals a day

Dr Áine O'Connor, a nutrition scientist from the British Nutrition Foundation, recommends little and often to beat the burning sensation that can come after overindulging. 'To avoid heartburn in pregnancy try eating small regular meals and snacks and avoid large meals.' It is a myth you need to eat for two, so don’t go mad and eat tons more than you normally would.

Avoid spicy, fatty and fried foods2 of 5

2) Avoid spicy, fatty and fried foods

It is not unheard of for women tocrave a curry during pregnancy but eating lots of spicy, fatty or rich food can make indigestion worse. Raw onions, say in a salad, can also cause pain to creep in after a meal.

If your cravings are strong or you are tempted by that tikka masala, just remember you may have to suffer the consequences after.

Drink milk3 of 5

3) Drink milk

Some women swear by drinking a glass of milk to calm the feelings of indigestion. Yoghurt and ice-cream may have a similar ‘cooling’ effect. But it may not work for everyone as some women may find that dairy products make their symptoms worse.

Keep a food diary4 of 5

4) Keep a food diary

'Keep a note of foods that trigger heartburn and try to avoid them,' says Dr O’Connor. The causes of indigestion can differ widely from woman to women. For some, fizzy or caffeinated drinks may be the cause. For others, it is fruit juice or tomato-based sauces.

By working out what foods cause your indigestion, you can reduce your chances of it happening. But Dr O’Connor adds, be careful you don’t cut out whole food groups which can provide vital nutrients for baby.

Don’t eat late at night5 of 5

5) Don’t eat late at night

When you lie down, it makes it easier for stomach contents to rise up and cause you grief. Eating late at night will mean little time for your body to digest what’s in there before you try and get some rest. If you do get hungry before bed, try to eat something small and plain as a snack.

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