Do you find our website to be helpful?
Yes   No

The Link Between Pregnancy and Heartburn

The Link Between Pregnancy and Heartburn

Pregnancy comes with a lot of positives — the anticipation of motherhood, the incredible feeling of connection when your baby responds to your voice, and that classic “glow.” But if we’re honest, we’d admit that there are few cons on the list, as well, and one of them is heartburn.

Dr. Darrien Gaston at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Consultants helps women throughout the greater Chicago, Illinois, area manage their pregnancy-related heartburn and acid reflux. Here’s why it happens and what you can do about it.

How heartburn got its name

Heartburn is a digestive issue that has nothing to do with your heart, so how did it get its name?

The moniker comes from the sensation you feel when stomach acid flows upward into your esophagus and irritates the tissues there. Since the lower part of your esophagus is near your heart, the burning sensation can feel as if your heart’s on fire. Rest assured, your ticker is safe.

Your esophagus, however, is not.

A valve at the bottom of your esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is supposed to keep your food and digestive acids safely confined to your stomach. If you’re experiencing heartburn, it means that the valve isn’t doing its job, a condition called acid reflux.

Heartburn isn’t a medical condition in and of itself, but rather a symptom of acid reflux. In its most severe form, acid reflux is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

Why do pregnant women get heartburn?

More than 50% of all pregnant women experience heartburn for three main reasons: changing hormones, esophageal relaxation, and uterine growth.

Hormones and heartburn

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “eating for two” and assumed it meant that a pregnant woman needs to eat more food to nourish her unborn baby, here’s what it really means.

During pregnancy, a woman’s hormones generate a long list of changes to accommodate the development of another human being, and one of those changes occurs in the digestive system. Your hormones slow down your rate of digestion, so your placenta can absorb the nutrients and nourish the baby — ”eating for two” should really be called “digesting for two.”

This affects your tolerance of certain foods and leads to heartburn. Slower digestion may also make you prone to constipation, which is another trigger for heartburn.

Esophagus relaxation and heartburn

Hormones, specifically progesterone, also causes smooth muscle tissue to relax. This means your LES becomes looser and allows acid to sneak upward — heartburn.

Growing uterus and heartburn

Anything that causes excess pressure on your abdomen can lead to heartburn, which is why constipation and obesity are two of the main culprits. 

Pregnancy and your growing uterus certainly fit the bill, as well. As your uterus expands, it pushes against your stomach and forces the contents upward into your esophagus. Third-trimester moms-to-be rarely escape at least some degree of heartburn, burping, and bloating. 

How to minimize heartburn during pregnancy

Unless your heartburn crosses the line and becomes severe or chronic (GERD), it’s not a serious medical issue. It can, however, make your pregnancy less enjoyable. Dr. Gaston offers a few practical tips to help you minimize heartburn during pregnancy:

Not all medications are safe during pregnancy, so check with your obstetrician before you take any, including OTC antacids. 

It’s time to come see Dr. Gaston if you experience extreme symptoms, such as:

These symptoms may indicate a health condition other than common acid reflux, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis. 

If you’re experiencing frequent heartburn, Dr. Gaston can be a valuable addition to your pregnancy medical team. To schedule an appointment, call us or book online today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Tips on How to Prevent Heartburn

That burning sensation in your chest means acid from your stomach has backed up into your esophagus. It’s uncomfortable at the moment, but over time, it can be destructive. Here’s how you can prevent it.

Can I Treat My Hemorrhoids on My Own?

They itch, they burn, and they make it hard to sit. You need to get rid of your hemorrhoids, but you’d rather solve the problem in the privacy of your own home, if possible. Here’s how to treat hemorrhoids on your own, and when to seek help.

Understanding What Triggers Ulcerative Colitis

If you have ulcerative colitis, you know that panicky feeling when you need a bathroom NOW, but there’s none to be found. To prevent those moments and other UC symptoms, avoid these potential flare-up triggers.

Why Orbera Might Be the Answer to Help You Lose Weight

Losing weight is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. It seems like nothing works, and you’re hungry all the time. It’s time to try Orbera™ — it’s not a diet, it’s a nonsurgical treatment that gives you the key to lasting weight loss.