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Heartburn during pregnancy

Heartburn is common during pregnancy. But you can take steps to prevent or ease the problem.

Heartburn may not be as well known as morning sickness. But it is a common complaint for pregnant women, according to the Office on Women's Health.

Here's a look at what causes heartburn and what you can do about it.

How heartburn happens

Heartburn happens when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus doesn't close completely. This allows the acidic contents of the stomach to be pushed up into the esophagus during digestion.

This acid creates a burning sensation that starts in your stomach and feels like it's rising. You might also feel like you need to vomit, or get a sour taste in your mouth.

During pregnancy, heartburn can happen when hormones relax the muscles in your digestive tract. This causes the entire digestive process to slow down and the valve not to close completely.

Also, as the baby grows, the uterus puts pressure on the stomach. This can cause acid to be pushed back up the esophagus.

How to get relief

Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean you have to suffer through heartburn. These tips can help prevent or ease the problem:

  • Don't lie down right after meals. Give your body time to fully digest your food.
  • Eat several small meals throughout the day. Small meals are less likely than large ones to put pressure on the stomach.
  • Avoid the foods that give you heartburn. For example, citrus fruits, caffeinated beverages and tomato products can cause or aggravate heartburn.
  • Wear loose clothing. Tight clothing may increase pressure on the stomach.

Still have heartburn?

If making these changes doesn't work and heartburn persists, you might want to talk to your doctor about taking an antacid. Remember to consult your doctor before taking any medications during pregnancy.

Most of the time heartburn is temporary, but severe heartburn can be a sign of a serious condition. The March of Dimes advises calling your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Heartburn that wakes you up at night.
  • Heartburn that returns as soon as your antacid wears off.
  • Spitting up blood.
  • Black stools.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Weight loss.

Reviewed 2/22/2021

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