Heartburn & Pregnancy

by Annabel Leather

Heartburn in pregnancy usually appears in the 3rd trimester but can occur as early as 12 weeks into pregnancy. It is caused due to an increase of pressure on your stomach due to your growing bump, changing hormones and also due to a change in the movement of your bowels!  Heartburn can also be referred to as reflux and is a burning sensation in your oesophagus (a fancy word for the tube which food travels along to get from your mouth to stomach). When the acid from your stomach is pushed upwards along the food pipe, it can cause pain and discomfort. Other symptoms can be belching or burping, feeling sick, a burning sensation in the chest or a heavy, bloated feeling.

Things that can exacerbate your heartburn can be:

  • A stressed lifestyle
  • Eating late at night
  • Frequent consumption of heavy, fat-rich meals
  • Eating too quickly
  • Long periods without eating followed by a larger meal

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Tips to help most cases of indigestion/heartburn:

  • Eat small, frequent meals and avoid extreme hunger
  • Eat at a table to help you sit upright
  • Eat slowly, chew food well and don't rush meals
  • Eat in a relaxed atmosphere
  • Stay upright after eating
  • If you suffer with heartburn during the night, avoid eating three hours before bedtime. Prop your head and shoulders up using pillows
  • Avoid foods at extremes of temperatures
  • Avoid wearing belts or clothes that are tight fitting and press into your waist
  • Avoid overeating and feeling very full

Certain foods can irritate your stomach and as everybody is different, experiment with reducing certain foods and see which affect you. The main culprits for aggravating heartburn are:

  • Alcohol & caffeine which you will have already reduced due to being pregnant!
  • Spicy foods and chilli
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Chocolate and cocoa products
  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits
  • Foods that are high in fat and oily - especially deep fried foods such as fish and chips, take-away pizzas or burgers.
  • Tomatoes and tomato products
  • Chewing gum and mints

If the above tips don't help and you are suffering badly with heartburn, you can try some over-the-counter medicines such as antacids - these help to neutralise the acid in your stomach. If you are taking iron tablets don't take these as the same time as the antacids. If these tablets do not work you may need to speak with your GP who can consider alternative medicines.



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Written by

Annabel Leather

Registered Dietitian
Hi, my name is Annabel and I am a Registered Dietitian. I have been working in the NHS for the last 5 years in different specialities ranging from oncology to gastroenterology to renal medicine. I also have covered inpatient maternity units & worked with gestational diabetes. I started my Instagram page (dietitian_annabel) to help put right all the confusing and incorrect nutrition information that is abundant online; I include only evidence-based trustworthy nutrition information and advice that is easy to understand. Bringing a new baby into the world is hard enough without having to find fact from fiction with what you should or should not be eating! Nutrition aside, I love experimenting with different baking ideas, drinking copious amounts of tea & have a new love of plants & gardening.

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