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Heartburn and indigestion in pregnancy

Find out what causes heartburn in pregnancy, what to do if you have it, the treatment available and when you should get emergency medical help.

Heartburn causes a burning feeling in the chest or throat. It’s uncomfortable, but is not usually harmful to pregnant women or their babies.

8 out of 10 pregnant women experience heartburn. You're most likely to get heartburn in the third trimester (last 3 months) of your pregnancy.

Related topic

What to expect in the third trimester of pregnancy

Symptoms

The symptoms of heartburn include:

  • a burning feeling in your chest or throat
  • acid coming up into your mouth
  • feeling sick
  • vomiting
  • burping
  • feeling full and bloated

When to get medical help

You should see your GP if you're:

  • losing weight
  • vomiting and not keeping food down
  • having difficulty swallowing
  • experiencing any symptoms of pre-eclampsia (such as a headache, blurred vision, sudden swelling of your hands, feet, legs or face, or a sharp pain under your ribs)
  • still getting symptoms after taking heartburn medicine (your GP may prescribe some different medicine)

Causes

Heartburn is caused by acid in your stomach leaking back up the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach (the oesophagus). This acid irritates your oesophagus, causing heartburn.

Heartburn can happen during pregnancy because of:

  • hormonal changes
  • your growing baby putting pressure on your stomach
  • the muscles around your oesophagus relaxing

Treatment for heartburn

You can reduce heartburn symptoms by making changes to your diet, your habits or by taking medicine.

Change your diet

You can reduce the symptoms of heartburn by:

  • eating smaller meals - you're more likely to get heartburn if you're very full
  • not eating for 3 hours before you go to bed
  • avoiding spicy, rich and fatty foods
  • avoiding fruit juices and fizzy drinks
  • not eating and drinking at the same time
  • avoiding caffeine
  • avoiding any foods that regularly give you heartburn

Change your habits

You can reduce the symptoms of heartburn if you:

Medicines for heartburn

Talk to your GP or pharmacist if changing your diet and habits don't help you. They can advise you what's safe to take during pregnancy.

The most common types of heartburn medicine are 'antacids' and 'alginates'.

Antacids neutralise (balance out) the acid in your stomach. Alginates stop the acid leaking back up from your stomach. They're usually combined into one medicine, which you can get from a pharmacy.

Always tell your pharmacist that you're pregnant before buying heartburn medication - not all antacids are safe to take while pregnant.

Do not take antacids if you have an iron deficiency or need to take iron supplements - antacids can stop your body absorbing iron.

Page last reviewed: 27/03/2019
Next review due: 27/03/2022