Pregnant woman with heartburn.

You may have heard people say, “if you have heartburn during pregnancy, it means your baby will be born with a lot of hair!” While there actually may be some truth to this particular old wives’ tale, the fact of the matter is that heartburn and indigestion can happen to any pregnant person (even if their baby is born without a single hair on his or her head). Read on for a bit more about what really causes heartburn during pregnancy, and a few things you can try to relieve (and prevent) the burn.

What Causes Heartburn and Indigestion in Pregnancy? 

As with many pregnancy ailments, those pesky hormones are the culprits. Pregnancy hormones slow down the muscles in your digestive tract, causing your food to take a while to move through the body, and digestion to slow down (this can also cause some mamas to feel bloated). The same hormones also relax the valve that connects your esophagus to your stomach, which can cause food and/or stomach acid to come back up into your esophagus and cause that irritating burning sensation. 

Another factor at play is your growing baby. As your little one gets bigger and takes up more room in your abdomen, your uterus will begin to push up against your stomach. This pressure on the stomach is what makes heartburn even more common (and frustrating) the later you are in your pregnancy.

How Can I Prevent Heartburn During Pregnancy? 

While (unfortunately) there’s not a sure-fire way to put a stop to heartburn during pregnancy, there are a few preventive measures you can take to see if they help make your symptoms a bit more tolerable:

  • Try to eat a few small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals
  • Eat slowly, and chew your food well. The less air that is introduced into your stomach as you eat, the better for your heartburn
  • Drink fluids between meals, instead of along with meals, to prevent your stomach from getting too full
  • Avoid greasy or fried food, acidic food and drink (such as citrus fruit or juice), and spicy food
  • Don’t lay down right after meals (and try not to eat or drink within a few hours of bedtime)

How Can I Treat Heartburn During Pregnancy? 

Even if you try all of the things above, heartburn and indigestion can still bother some mamas. You can try a few things to get relief during a flare-up…

  • Eat some yogurt or drink a glass of milk
  • Mix a bit of honey into a glass of warm milk or ginger tea
  • Sleep with your head elevated to help control flare-ups during the night
  • Try an over-the-counter antacid…but ONLY after consulting with your provider

Heartburn is no joke—and if it’s severe enough to affect your eating and sleeping, your provider might be able to prescribe a medication that can help you find more relief. The good news is, whether your heartburn is mild or intense, it won’t stick around. The majority of mamas find that their heartburn and indigestion goes away shortly after birth.