Heartburn plagues most moms-to-be at some point because progesterone, the hormone that relaxes muscles in pregnancy, also relaxes the stomach valve that keeps acid out of the esophagus. In addition, the growing uterus crowds the stomach, forcing acid into the esophagus.
But there are safe, effective ways to stop it. “Pregnant women really don’t need to suffer with heartburn anymore,” says Adrienne Einarson, RN, assistant director of clinical services at Motherisk, a Toronto-based program that investigates the effects of prenatal exposures on maternal and fetal health.
Eat small meals
If you’re suffering from morning sickness, eating just a little at a time is probably no problem for you. But if your appetite is healthy, be sure to avoid eating so much that you feel full.
Just as it does when you’re not pregnant, an overly stuffed stomach can contribute to heartburn. Instead of three square meals a day, try five or six smaller ones.
Take it slow
Bolting down your food can also lead to heartburn and indigestion.
Try to relax and enjoy your meals, which will also help you avoid overeating.
Rather than drinking a big glass of milk with dinner, you may be better off just sipping liquids during meals.
Try to get most of your fluid intake by drinking beverages between, rather than during, meals.
Sit or stand after a meal
After a meal, take a leisurely walk, do a little housework, sit down and read a book—just don’t lie down, and don’t do anything that requires you to bend over.
Both of these activities can help wash acid back up into your esophagus.
Don’t eat right before bed
Having a hearty meal and then heading to bed is a recipe for heartburn, warns Joel Richter, MD, director of the division of gastroenterology and nutrition and the esophageal diseases center at the University of South Florida, in Tampa, who has studied heartburn during pregnancy. He recommends trying not to eat for at least three hours before you go to sleep.
You should also try to avoid liquids starting a few hours before bedtime.
Keep your head and upper chest elevated at night
Many people with acid reflux swear by their “bedges,” wedge-shaped pillows that gently slant your upper body upwards to keep stomach acid where it belongs.
And there’s no need for buying a pricey special product, Dr. Richter says. “You can get these at places like Bed, Bath and Beyond for about $25,” he says.
An even cheaper option? Put blocks underneath the legs at the head of your bed.