While some mommies are willing to endure discomfort in hopes that the myth of “heartburn = a baby with a head full of hair” is true (it’s not), heartburn has the potential to seriously affect the health of a pregnancy. The good news is that there are several safe and effective options for management.
Heartburn, also known as acid reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), commonly accompanies a bun in the oven due to the hormonal changes in pregnancy and the increased abdominal pressure from an enlarging uterus. The extra stomach acid can worsen nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Additionally, stomach acid problems do not always manifest as a “burning pain climbing up your throat.” Especially during pregnancy, symptoms like decreased appetite, feeling full quickly, or feeling queasy can be related to excessive stomach acid. When pregnant women avoid eating or drinking enough water because they do not feel good, this can lead to poor nutrition that may affect babies’ growth and put mothers at risk for fainting/injury.
Strategies for reducing heartburn in pregnancy:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals (every 2-3 hours)
- Drink milk
- Avoid spicy, greasy, fried, and acidic foods. Avoid citrus fruits, coffee, and carbonated beverages (like soda or sparkling water)
- Avoid lying down within 3 hours of eating
- Take antacids
Over the counter antacid options include:
- Aluminum hydroxide/magnesium hydroxide (Maalox)
- Calcium carbonate (Tums)
- Famotidine (Pepcid)
- Omeprazole (Prilosec), Esomeprazole (Nexium), Pantoprazole (Protonix), or Lasoprazole (Prevacid)
WARNING – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has alerted healthcare providers and patients of a voluntary recallfor certain batches of over-the-counter Ranitidine tablets (Zantac) made by Sandoz Inc., after low levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) were detected. NDMA is a known environmental contaminant, classified as a probable human carcinogen (a substance that could cause cancer).
The joys of motherhood come with plenty of annoyances (morning sickness, stretch marks, back pain, hemorrhoids, “lightning crotch”); heartburn does not have to be one of them.
Keep in mind that other more serious conditions (like stomach ulcers) may present with symptoms similar to heartburn. It is important to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider to see whether further evaluation is needed. If you notice blood when you vomit, you should seek immediate medical attention.