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Pregnancy heartburn is almost inescapable, but don't give up hope just yet — there are some steps you can take to get rid of heartburn fast, as well as things you can do to try to minimize episodes of acid reflux during pregnancy.

I was prepared for the all-day "morning" sickness, the fatigue, the food cravings, and even the swollen ankles that never showed up — but heartburn took me completely by surprise during my first pregnancy. It set in just when I thought I had hit that "sweet spot of pregnancy", during the second trimester. I might otherwise have been feeling pretty good, but that all-night heartburn was such a beast that it really interfered with my ability to sleep, and consequently with my ability to function during the day. Until I figured out what to do about it. 

Are you in the same boat? Of course you are — up to 96 percent of pregnant women, a shocking statistic, experience repeated episodes of symptomatic acid reflux [1]!

You may have heard that lifestyle adjustments, particularly an acid reflux diet in which food is a natural heartburn remedy, are the best ways to wave heartburn goodbye. That holds true in general [2], but is pregnancy heartburn any different? Is pregnancy heartburn something you will simply have to live with until your baby is born, or can natural acid reflux remedies come to your rescue?

What Causes Pregnancy Heartburn?

Lots of different things, as it turns out.

First, there's the hormone progesterone, which plays a big role in your body while you're expecting a baby (and which you thus can't escape from). Progesterone causes the lower esophageal sphincter, the bit stomach acid needs to get through to give you hell, to relax. This leads to more frequent episodes of heartburn during pregnancy. [3]. 

Research also shows that women who suffer from pregnancy nausea and vomiting, more commonly (and inaccurately, since it can occur at any time of the day) known as morning sickness, are more likely to experience pregnancy heartburn than those who don't. This has led researchers to believe that morning sickness and pregnancy heartburn could share a common cause [1], and interestingly, progesterone has been implicated in causing pregnancy nausea too.

You may have read that pregnancy heartburn is partially caused by increased abdominal pressure. Given the fact that obesity is another independent risk factor for frequent episodes of acid reflux [4], that idea certainly makes sense. It was also refuted in one study [5].

Your risk of heartburn still goes up with each passing day of your pregnancy, and women are most likely to experience acid reflux during their second and first trimesters, though [5], so perhaps the fact that your growing baby is squashing your insides could be one of the factors that contribute to your pregnancy heartburn after all?

Other risk factors for pregnancy heartburn include:

  • Frequent episodes of heartburn before you got pregnant (ehm, "duh"?)
  • Having been pregnant before
  • A higher pre-pregnancy body mass index or significant weight gain during pregnancy
  • Being a younger mother
  • And, interestingly, being pregnant with a girl [6]

As you can see, a lot of the factors that contribute to pregnancy heartburn are ones you can't do anything about. It's not surprising that most women get heartburn during their pregnancies, is it?

OK, I Get That — Now How Can I Fight Acute Pregnancy Heartburn?

If your pregnancy heartburn strikes at night when the pharmacy is closed or you can't be bothered to go there, as it tends to, the single best thing you can do to get rid of heartburn is to mix half a teaspoon to a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water. Drink it, and watch your heartburn melt away almost instantly. 

Sodium bicarbonate, the main active ingredient in baking soda, is often used in commercial antacids to fight acid reflux as well [7], and that's because it is truly one of the best natural heartburn remedies out there, whether you're expecting a baby or not.

Victims of nightly pregnancy heartburn should further try to sleep on their left side [8], with their heads propped up with a pillow [9]. 

In case you were wondering whether you should use yogurt as a heartburn remedy, since it's popularly suggested and likely to be sitting around in your fridge, the answer is "no". Yogurt is actually acidic, and acidic foods aren't good heartburn remedies. 

Preventing Pregnancy Heartburn

Expectant moms who have been plagued by heartburn will want to know what they can do to prevent further episodes by following an acid reflux diet. The good news is that you are almost certainly already avoiding alcohol, smoking, and coffee — all of which can trigger heartburn — simply because you are pregnant. The bad news is that you just may be craving tomatoes, carbonated, sugary drinks, peppermint, chocolate, and fatty foods, all of which also cause heartburn in some folks. [10] Refraining from those foods may well help prevent or at least lessen the severity of your pregnancy heartburn, so we suggest giving that a go.

An acid reflux diet isn't just about what you eat, but about how you eat too. You'll also want to take care to eat smaller meals more frequently rather than consuming three large portions a day [11], and to avoid eating after 7 pm [12]. 

A final step you can take towards avoiding heartburn is to chew chewing gum for half an hour after each meal [13].

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