Digestive System Home > Heartburn and Pregnancy

Many medical conditions can aggravate the symptoms of heartburn, and this is especially true with pregnancy. Up to 70 percent of all pregnant women experience heartburn at some point. Heartburn can start during the first trimester and tends to get worse during the second and third trimesters. Treatment usually involves making dietary and lifestyle changes, such as eating smaller, more frequent meals and not lying down immediately after eating. If diet and lifestyle changes don't provide relief, heartburn medication is another option.

An Overview of Pregnancy and Heartburn

Many women develop heartburn, or have their symptoms become worse, during pregnancy. Up to 70 percent of all pregnant women experience heartburn at some point during their pregnancy, and up to 1 out of 4 suffer from heartburn every day. Heartburn in pregnancy may start during the first trimester. It tends to worsen during the second trimester and third trimester.
 

Causes of Heartburn During Pregnancy

Some doctors believe that heartburn in pregnancy happens because the growing baby puts pressure on the stomach and pushes it up against the diaphragm. Such an increase in pressure on the stomach can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to open when it shouldn't, allowing acid reflux to occur.
 
Also, normal hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can weaken the sphincter, making it even more likely to open up when it shouldn't. Both the increased pressure on the stomach and a weakened sphincter can make it easier for acid reflux to happen during pregnancy.
 

Symptoms

During pregnancy, the main symptom of heartburn is pain or discomfort that starts in the middle of the chest and can move up through the throat. This heartburn pain can be frequent, constant, and/or severe. Heartburn in pregnancy can be made worse by eating large meals and lying down.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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