Heartburn and acid reflux seem to be one of
the many charming benefits of pregnancy.
There are a couple of reasons
for it, one, as your uterus gets bigger it squishes your stomach and forces
stuff upwards so the acid in your stomach can percolate over. Two, your body is releasing a
number of hormones that relax your joints and muscles so your uterus doesn’t
contract your baby out and so you have an easier birth come show time.
Unfortunately, these hormones also relax the muscles at the top of your stomach
that normally keep the lid on your stomach acid. It can range from mildly annoying
to feeling like you’re gargling battery acid and it sucks.
I had the worst heartburn
throughout both of my pregnancies. The first time around I asked my doctor about
it and she told me to take TUMS. They did nothing and I had to sleep upright
for the last four weeks of my pregnancy – it was beyond awful. Of course I’m an
idiot because when she said “take TUMS”, I heard “TUMS are the only thing you
can take” so I never piped up about how bad it was and lived in misery.
The second time around I told
her I had terrible heartburn again she told me I should take Pepcid AC. I took
it and was perfectly fine the entire pregnancy. It was like the heavens opened
So I tried to gather up a
variety of tricks, remedies, and safe medications to keep the burn at bay. Here
Tips and Tricks for Heartburn
Eat smaller meals more
The thought being that if you
eat less there will be less stomach acid and therefore less occurrence of acid
“overflow”. I once ate two poutines from New York Fries when I was
pregnant. Two. If you aren’t from Canada you
may not be familiar with poutine. I have no doubt it’s what God eats as Satan
snickers. It is glorious.
Eat slowly and drink your
beverages between meals, not with them:
The idea being that if you
stuff a ton of food in yourself, your body has a lot of work to do to digest it all at
once and releases a lot of stomach acid. If you dilute all that stomach acid
with a bunch of water, your body releases even more stomach acid.
Wear loose, comfortable
I can’t imagine wanting to
wear tight uncomfortable clothes when you’re pregnant (or anytime for that
matter) but it’s mentioned enough that I’ve added it in. So put away that size
0 wet suit and corseted Versace gown to aid in your digestion, you know, until
after the baby comes of course.
Stop eating 2-3 hours before
bedtime (she types laughing):
That way your body isn’t digesting
when you’re lying down. I get it, but I was hungry when I was pregnant – like wolverine
hungry. An apple wasn’t cutting it just before I went to bed. You may have
better luck with this though.
Elevate your head when you sleep:
Sleeping on your left side:
Sleeping on your left side seems to
reduce heartburn as well. There are a couple of hypothesis
for this. One is that right-side sleeping relaxes the valve between stomach and
the esophagus so acid can flow up. Another is that left-side sleeping keeps the
junction between stomach and esophagus above the level of stomach acid. Either way, it seems to work.
The easiest way to remember is that
“right is wrong”.
Suggested foods that worsen
(basically anything that’s really delicious – sorry, you know I don’t
make the rules here)
- Carbonated beverages
- Fried stuff
- Fatty stuff
- Spicy stuff
- Citrus fruit
- Alcohol and cigarette smoking
will also really contribute to heartburn – another reason you should ditch
those habits all together.
Suggested foods that improve
- Milk (I found this actually gave
me heartburn, but I may be alone in that one)
- Ice Cream (Always worth a try
– better eat two tubs just to be sure)
- Basil leaves
- Ginger in any form – root,
- Pineapple and papaya (ripe papaya only but who the hell eats unripe papaya?)
- Raw Almonds
- Fermented foods
such as sauerkraut,
kimchi, and pickles
drinks like milk kefir,
kombucha, and water kefir soda
- Chewing gum – Although, some sites say it will actually encourage stomach acid production which will exacerbate your heartburn.
Apple Cider vinegar and honey: Mix 8 oz
of water with two teaspoons apple cider vinegar. Add honey to taste.
Papaya enzymes or Digestive enzymes: The idea being your stomach
is helped along so it doesn’t have to release as much acid.
(Tums, Rolaids, Milk of Magnesia)
These help by neutralizing stomach acids and are generally deemed
safe for use during pregnancy. That said, some seem to be better choices than
others so read your labels and check with your medical profession before going
rogue with them because they can interfere with other medications, iron
supplements, etc. The most common ingredients in antacids are:
- Calcium carbonate: This ingredient has
been used for heartburn since the first century and is deemed safe for pregnant
- Magnesium Hydroxide: Seems to be deemed
safe for pregnancy, plus it can help with constipation. Woot! Some sites say you should dial it back
in your third trimester because it can slow uterine contractions however, there
are quite a few magnesiums and I’m not convinced they aren’t getting them
confused. I still thought it was worth mentioning because if you know your
magnesiums really well, you can let me know which is correct and I can update
Okay, instead of neutralizing acid,
these guys reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. They are H2 blockers
and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) – they differ slightly in what stage of acid
production they deal with, how long they take to kick in, and how long they
Both have been given the green light
for pregnancy, however H2 blockers have been around longer than PPIs so there’s
a bit more data on them.
The difference between the
over-the-counter brands and their prescription counterparts is their potency.
The ones that seem to be the most popular with medical
- Pepcid AC (OTC – over the counter)
- Zantac (OTC)
- Prilosec (OTC)
- Pepsid (H2)
- Protonix (PPI)
- Nexium (PPI)
- Dexilant (PPI)
Stuff that is Dicey or a No-No
Fennel Seed Tea: This got a few thumbs
up and a few thumbs down. As you know with most herbs, you can’t patent them so
nobody is doing large scaled studies on them and that makes people
understandably twitchy. Find someone that knows what they are talking about
with this stuff before going this route.
Slippery Elm: Again, everything
herbal often has conflicting information because these remedies aren’t studied to the
extent other drugs are. I’ve read everything from slippery elm being completely
safe to it being use with caution. It sounds fine but ask a person that knows their shit (preferably someone that wears their long grey
hair in a braid) before drinking a bathtub full of it.
(DGL): Okay, this one sounds fine but the reason I put it in here is because
Licorice is not fine (the root, not the candy – they flavor that with anise so
it’s perfectly safe) and I don’t want anybody getting them confused. Licorice has something
called glycyrrhizin in it and it can elevate your
blood pressure and increase water retention – bad
bad no – whereas DGL has had the glycyrrhizin removed so it’s safe to treat
heartburn. Talk to grey braid person and your medical pro to make sure you’re
taking the correct stuff.
Salicylate or acetylsalicylic acid (Alka
Seltzer): This one is a no-no because it contains
aspirin, which can interfere with your blood’s clotting
action during pregnancy.
Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda): Many, many sites will tell you to take
baking soda in a glass of water to neutralize stomach acid. The problem is
baking soda causes water retention in both you and your baby. The last thing a
pregnant lady needs is water retention. Baking soda actually has a category C
rating for pregnancy from the FDA, if you can believe it. Don’t worry, you can
still bake your cookies, just don’t drink glasses of it.
Aluminum hydroxide or aluminum
carbonate (Mylanta, Maalox): It looks like this ingredient isn’t so
much dangerous as it can contribute to constipation, so you’re better off going
with the other alternatives.
So hopefully something here will help extinguish the burn and you won’t be an idiot like me and just power through like some kind of dum dum martyr.
Let me know what you’ve had success with though and keep trying the ice cream method until it works!