Sometimes I (semi) joke about how I definitely experience all the unpleasant side effects of pregnancy. It’s all worth it, but it definitely makes for a long month. I’ve written plenty about my morning sickness woes with Jack, and that is something that I haven’t missed out on this pregnancy either. Another thing that I haven’t missed out is acid reflux/heart burn.
When I was pregnant, acid reflux didn’t set in until about the third trimester. However, it came in with a vengenance, and it almost made me wish I was throwing up instead. In fact, several times it did induce vomiting. I remember exactly when it started – we were staying at my parent’s house for Christmas, and I woke up with the most horrible burning sensation in my chest and throat. I mistakenly thought that it was the beginning of strep throat. I had never experienced heartburn before, but after it kept recurring every night…I realized what it was. It only got worse throughout the rest of my pregnancy!
Well, despite what people told me, it didn’t go away after pregnancy, and I’ve been diagnosed with acid reflux/GERD. Hopefully that isn’t the case for you (most I’ve talked to say they feel instantly better after they give birth.) It only has gotten worse, and it seems like almost immediately after I got pregnant this time around, the severity of it increased 10 fold! Needless to say, it hasn’t been the most pleasant experience.
I’ve tried a lot of different things, though lately I’ve been trying to find some more natural heartburn remedies. I’m not against medication, but for some reasons I’ll discuss in this post, I’ve decided to try and find some alternatives. I haven’t tried all of these – but I intend to! Be sure to tell me if you have tried anything that works.
As always, this advice is not meant to be taken as medical advice. I am not a medical professional, and this is based off of my own experience and research. Always consult with your medical provider before trying a new course of treatment.
What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy
So, what is it about pregnancy that makes women suffer from acid reflux and heart burn? Well, there are several possible reasons. Some people claim that if you have acid reflux, your baby will be born with a head of hair. I have no idea if that really has any scientific basing, or if it’s just a silly old wive’s tale, but Jack definitely made me believe it! Check out that awesome hair:
There are some other reasons that make a little more sense though! First off – the cause of many pregnancy symptoms – hormones. According to WebMD (http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/heartburn-during-pregnancy), it can sometimes occur because of the rapidly changing hormone levels, which “can affect the muscles of the digestive tract and how different foods are tolerated.” These same pregnancy hormones “can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, allowing stomach acids to splash back up into the esophagus.” For many women, it happens as their uterus gets larger, which ends up crowding the abdomen and pushing stomach acids back up.
I’m not entirely sure why mine kept going on after I had though, but a chiropractor I visited with recently believes I have a hiatial hernia, which can cause persistent acid reflux. He speculated it formed during my first pregnancy, which is why my heart burn never went away. Who knows!
My brilliant Labor and Delivery nurse friend, Hilary, from Pulling Curls (be sure to check out all her pregnancy-related posts), let me know another reason for heartburn that I thought I’d include. Thanks Hilary!:
One of the main causes of heartburn in pregnancy is how the uterus tips your stomach making it so, mechanically, the sphincter cant close. Which is why, right after its better.
Pregnancy Heart burn Remedies
Now, I can’t guarantee any of these work, and you should definitely talk with a doctor first (especially for anything with medication), but here are some different pregnancy heart burn remedies to consider trying. I know that no matter what some people do, it won’t go away. But if you’ve experienced it, you know it’s worth trying just about anything!
Medicinal Heartburn Treatments
There are several different ways to treat acid reflux using medicinal treatments – some over the counter, and some that you have to get by prescription only.
There are several over the counter antacids that you can use during pregnancy. It’s important to make sure they do not contain magnesium or aluminum, which many antacids do.
During my pregnancy with Jack, I used Maalox a ton, which was approved by my OBGYN. During this pregnancy, I’ve been using TUMS (or the generic brand) once a day. It’s important not to use above the recommended dosage for any antacid, as some of them can cause a calcium overdose (which often results in constipation.)
I can’t give you an advice on what kind of prescription to get, if it’s needed. That’s something your physician will have to do! My OBGYN prescribed me ranitidine. I used it, and it worked pretty well…until it started causing some extreme (TMI) constipation, which resulted in horrible stomach pain, and honestly…it was worse than the heartburn itself! So, I discontinued taking it and have relied on TUMS to help me through the roughest moments since.
I wasn’t allowed to take an prescription medicine for heartburn until the second trimester. Not sure why, but that’s just what my OBGYN said!
Natural Heartburn Treatments for Pregnancy
Chiropractor: I saw a chiropractor a few months ago, and he quickly found some issues that may have been causing worse acid reflux. He did some adjustments, and I definitely saw some improvements. I haven’t gone back, but I need to soon, especially since I’ve started using less medicine to help.
Bed Wedge: This is something Forrest suggested to me. It’s just a large wedge that you put on your bed to help you sleep at more of an angle, which can help with acid reflux. There are tons of different options on Amazon, and mine just arrived – I have to say, I’m a HUGE fan. It seriously has improved my ability to sleep at night so much. These do cost a decent amount of money (between $30 and $70), but it is worth it for the relief. Here is what mine looks like:
After doing a lot of research, most people found 12″ ones to be too high, so I opted for a 7″ one. It seems to be pretty perfect, though I think a 10″ one would have been fine as well. You can check out a wide variety of ones available here – be sure to read the reviews. Amazon has a bunch as well – this is the one I got.
1/2-1 teaspoon baking soda + glass of water: This is a tip my chiropractor gave me – mix together 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking soda in one glass of water and drink it whenever you have heartburn (no more than seven doses in 24 hours.) It did work, but the taste was almost too much for me. However, it was worth doing the few times nothing else worked. Baking soda has a high pH, which helps to neutralize the stomach acids that are causing heartburn.
Wear Loose Clothing: I know that when I’m pregnant (okay, and really, when I’m not) I like to wear comfortable clothing – so this isn’t a big problem for me. The more constricting and tight your clothing is, the more likely heartburn is to affect you. Tight fighting bras, t-shirts, etc. can really cause heartburn to get worse. So, take heartburn as an excuse to get your comfy on!
1 piece of sugar free gum 30 mins after eating
Essential oils: Most of you know that I have issues tolerating essential oils, but I know they help so many! There are plenty of essential oils that are good for heartburn, though it’s important to make sure they are safe to take during pregnancy. I don’t know a lot about essential oil use during pregnancy, and what is safe and what’s not…so do your research. However, it looks like many people use peppermint oil with success (some suggest putting a drop or two in a glass of almond milk, but apparently it can lower your breastmilk supply, so you probably shouldn’t try that after the first trimester) or using Digestzen externally.
3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with a glass of water: It’s interesting, because this is known to help heartburn, but everything I’ve read has also had the caveat that it can sometimes worsen symptoms. I’m not sure why, but if you try this method and your heartburn just gets worse…discontinue immediately!
1 teaspoon mustard: The thought of eating a teaspoon of mustard makes me gag. Once Forrest dared me to eat a spoonful of it on a chip (when we were dating). Here’s how well that went over:
Needless to say, this is something I don’t think I’ll be trying. However, if you think eating plain mustard is better than heartburn, it might be worth it!
Gain correct amount of weight: In general, heartburn can be worse in people that are overweight – pregnant or not. Pregnant women are special though, because it plagues women who are underweight, overweight, and the perfect weight. However, there is evidence that shows gaining an appropriate amount of weight during pregnancy can help with heartburn symptoms. I’m not sure if I buy this, since I really haven’t gained much weight at all…and my heartburn is horrible…but you never know!
Eating During Pregnancy
Acid reflux severity can increase depending on what you eat and even how you eat. In general, you should try and eat small meals throughout the day, instead of just three large meals. This is something that’s recommended to treat morning sickness, and just for the general population. You should also try and take smaller bites of foods slowly, rather than scarfing your food down. I also recommend not eating within a few hours of going to bed, and even during the day, try and stand or sit up straight after eating a meal.
Here are a few types of foods that may cause acid reflux to be worse:
- Anything acidic
- Oranges and other citrus fruits
- Spicy foods
- Fatty foods
- Caffeinated beverages
- Breads (okay, I don’t know if this is a trigger for anyone else, but my acid reflux is way worse when I eat any type of bread)
However, there are a few foods that can help calm acid reflux
- Almonds – eat 2 to 3 almonds at the end of every meal