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Pregnancy Heartburn Relief: What You Need to Know to Find Relief Fast

If you are looking for heartburn relief in pregnancy, you are not alone! Many women experience heartburn during pregnancy. In fact, in a review of studies on heartburn during pregnancy, it was found that 39% of women experience heartburn in the first trimester and that number increases to 72% of women by the third trimester!

There is a common legend that if you experience intense heartburn during pregnancy, your baby will be born with a full head of hair.

And while I can’t say if the legend is true or not, I can help you address the feeling of a volcano exploding up your esophagus. Here is what you need to know about pregnancy heartburn relief.

a mother in pregnancy showing first trimester second trimester third trimester and holding baby

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women suffering from heart burn in third trimester of pregnancy

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Are There Safe Antacids to Take During Pregnancy?

Antacids are the most common way to address pregnancy heartburn. When you take any medication during pregnancy, over the counter or not, you should talk to your doctor about it first. There are several different types of antacids available over the counter. Let’s review what they are, if they work and any known risks.

Getting to Know Your Over the Counter Antacids:

There are several types of antacids available at the grocery store that you may even have in your medicine cabinet already. Let’s take a look at what they are.

  • Tums and Citrical are made up of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.
  • Alka-Seltzer is made up of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and aspirin.
  • Mylanta and Maloox contain a mixture of magnesium and aluminum.

The purpose of an antacid is to neutralize the acid in your stomach and esophagus and thus relieve your symptoms. Though these all have different active ingredients, the way they work is the same.

Do they work? Maybe. Unfortunately, there are no large scale randomized control studies that would conclusively tell us which medications are best for pregnancy heartburn relief.

However, small studies show that while no medication always relieves heartburn, women who use medication to address their heartburn more often report complete or partial relief than women who don’t.

a bottle of tums for heartburn relief in pregnancy

Are There Any Risks to Antacids During Pregnancy?

Unfortunately, there are risks to antacids during pregnancy. These are the things you should know about before you rely totally and completely on antacids for pregnancy heartburn relief.

One surprising and new finding was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. This study observed a group of US children who were at high risk for asthma because of severe bronchiolitis. The researchers found that prenatal exposure to acid-suppressant medication increased the risk of developing a recurrent wheeze. This is certainly a new discovery and one that needs more research.

What You Need to Know About Alka Seltzer:

There are other things you may want to consider as well. One of the main ingredients in Alka-Seltzer is Asprin. You definitely want to talk with your doctor before you take this regularly as Asprin can affect your blood pressure.

What You Need to Know About Calcium Based Antacids:

Tums contain calcium carbonate. Two tums tablets contain 80 percent of your daily recommended calcium. Though calcium can be very beneficial and even reduce your risks for preeclampsia if you have the right amount, it can be dangerous if you have too much.

This study from Yale University shows that when you have too much calcium, it ends up as deposits in your placenta. This can cause your placenta to be calcified and may be linked to the early rupture of your membranes and preterm labor.

You should also be aware that calcium binds to iron. This means, that if you are taking extreme amounts of calcium, you need to make sure you do not become anemic. Some pregnancy complaints, such as restless legs have been linked to iron deficiencies.

What You Need To Know About Magnesium and Aluminum Based Antacids:

Aluminum is one of the most common metals in our environments and is used widely in our makeup, foods, deodorant, and drugs. Unfortunately, I do not have space to go into all the research about aluminum and pregnancy. However, we do know that in animal studies, exposure to aluminum can affect nearly every aspect of development, including bone structure, brain development, and the central nervous system. It is worth considering how you will reduce your exposure to aluminum in your pregnancy

Does This Mean You Should Hard Pass on the Antacids During Pregnancy?

No, not necessarily. This article is not medical advice. You need to consider the severity of your symptoms, your quality of life, explore your alternatives and then weigh the benefits with the risks. Your doctor should be able to help you with this.

women holding throat showing heartburn

What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, you have a trifecta of things pushing the acid out of your stomach and into your throat.

  • First, your baby is taking up precious space and increasing the pressure on your stomach and it’s contents. This is why more heartburn is experienced the further into pregnancy you get.
  • Second, your body is full of a hormone called Relaxin. Relaxin can help your muscles move and stretch so you can birth your baby. Unfortunately, it also affects the sphincter that closes off your stomach from your throat. When this stays open, even ever so slightly, you may feel acid bubbling up your esophagus.  
  • Third, and most importantly, the extra progesterone in your body has caused your body to produce less stomach acid. I know what you’re thinking, isn’t the problem too much acid if it’s bursting up your throat? Nope. Stomach acid helps your body break down food so that it is more easily digested. This is why many women have success getting rid of heartburn by using apple cider vinegar or pickle juice, which adds acid to the stomach and breaks down food so that it can move on.

If your gut health is suboptimal to begin with, these three things work together to make digestion quite a challenging task for your body. But there are things you can do to help!

Alternatives to Antacids for Treating Heartburn in Pregnancy

How to Support Digestion with Digestive Enzymes:

You can support your digestion and help your body break down food by making sure you get enough digestive enzymes, either through the food you eat or through a supplement. Digestive Enzymes are found naturally in most fruits and vegetables and created in your body. They help break large food molecules down into their building blocks that can be absorbed and used by the body.

Digestive Enzyme Supplements are one of the most common alternative treatments for pregnancy heartburn relief. Since our overly cooked and processed diets lack natural digestive enzymes that would be found in a plant-based, less processed diet, supplements can be used to fill the gap.

Essentially, a digestive enzyme provides heartburn relief by helping the body break food down so nutrients can be absorbed. 

My favorite brand of digestive enzymes are made by doTerra and are called TerraZyme

DigestZen TerraZyme® Digestive Enzyme Complex is a proprietary blend of active whole-food enzymes that help break down several different types of food.

These enzyme supplements contain:

  • papain (papaya), the most common enzyme used for pregnancy heartburn,
  • lactase which helps break down milk sugars,
  • an anti-gluten enzyme blend,
  • and protease, which helps break proteins down to peptides and amino acids among others.

My Experience with Digestive Enzymes:

While I always prefer a food-based solution, sometimes it is unrealistic to make swooping dietary changes. Personally, I used Digestive Enzyme Supplements during pregnancy with great success. I did not need them for heartburn relief until well into my third trimester. I found them to be very helpful, especially when I would be eating an unusually large meal or meal such as pizza that would otherwise leave me feeling awful all night.

I also used Enzymes Supplements after baby Hazel was born to help stay off her dairy intolerance. Any time I would eat dairy, she would be colicky and I could kiss a good night’s sleep goodbye. I tried my best to avoid dairy in my diet. However, if I could not avoid dairy, I found the problem was greatly reduced by taking TerraZymes with my cheese.

pineapple wearing glasses foods with enzymes for heartburn relief in pregnancy

Foods that Naturally Contain Digestive Enzymes

If you are looking for foods that naturally contain high amounts of digestive enzymes try these:

  • Papaya
  • Pineapple 
  • Mango
  • Honey
  • Banana
  • Avocado
  • Kefir

How to Support Digestion With Probiotics

Probiotics are a mainstay of gut health. Everyone has intestines lined with bacteria which helps break down food and makes nutrients available for the body to absorb. However, diets, medications, and other factors can result in losing our gut bacteria.

One study concluded:

” Using probiotics to treat gastrointestinal symptoms will affect both the diversity and density of the gut bacteria, help restore the digestive tract to a healthy state, and eliminate the need for medications that may do extra harm.”

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology

So yes, using probiotics can be beneficial to reducing heartburn symptoms in pregnancy.

But the benefits of using probiotics do not end with heartburn symptoms.

  • One study found that when a mother took probiotics during her third trimester, her child was 22% less likely to develop eczema.
  • Several clinical trials have shown promising results in reducing insulin resistance for women with gestational diabetes.
  • A Norwegian study of 70.000 women found that women who took probiotics during pregnancy reduced their risk of preeclampsia by 20% and reduced the risk of pre-term birth by 27%.

One of the coolest things about using probiotics for pregnancy heartburn is that there haven’t been any safety concerns reported. There have been several randomized controlled trials of women using probiotics in their third trimester with no increase in negative fetal outcomes. YAY!

What Probiotic Should You Use?

There are many probiotics on the market. I absolutely LOVE the probiotics made by doTerra. These are a regular in our home. Everyone, including the adults in my house, enjoy the PB Assit Jr. While this is a children’s supplement, it checks all the boxes I look for in a supplement.

  • First, it has 5 billion live gut building cells.
  • Second, it has a unique blend of six different probiotic strains.
  • Third, it tastes just like a pixie stick. YUM!

If you do prefer a more adult approach to taking your probiotics, you can always take the pill form, PB Assist. It has the same great benefits.

If you would like to order both the PB Assist and Digestive Enzymes, you can order them together, here.

a blue bowl of yogurt, a food high in probiotics that can aid with pregnancy heartburn relief

Foods High in Probiotics

You can try to add foods high in probiotics to your diet. However, I will add, that sometimes these foods are high in sugar and often low in the number of live probiotics unless you make them at home.

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Kombucha

How to Get Rid of Heartburn Fast During Pregnancy

Sometimes heartburn strikes and you don’t necessarily have the supplements or over the counter medications on hand that you would like. These tricks honestly do not taste very good, but they are convenient and can be very effective.

  1. Mix 1 T apple cider vinegar with a shot of water and drink.
  2. Drink pickle juice.
  3. Mix 1 T baking soda with a cup of water and drink.
  4. Spend time in the yoga pose Low Goddess (also called Garland Pose).
  5. Mix 1 drop bergamot or spearmint essential oils with a bit of coconut oil and rub across your chest.

To find out more about using essential oils, probiotics and enzymes during pregnancy, check out my article on the 5 Lifechanging Ways to Use Essential Oils for Pregnancy.

third trimester mom making ok sign with her hand for pregnancy heartburn relief

How to Prevent Pregnancy Heartburn

It may be impossible to totally prevent heartburn in pregnancy. In fact, the same studies that told us that antacids weren’t completely effective also told us that lifestyle changes also aren’t 100 percent effective. But, often you can reduce symptoms by making simple changes to your daily habits.  

  1. Eat a full meal and then don’t snack. Give your body plenty of time to digest the food you eat by eating a complete and healthy meal, then waiting 2 to 3 hours to eat again. 
  2. Don’t eat right before bed when heartburn can interfere with your sleep. It’s harder for your body to digest food when you are laying horizontal. Eat your last meal 2 hours before bedtime if possible. 
  3. Avoid trigger foods such as sugar, caffeine, gluten, and dairy. Try removing each one on its own at a time. If it affects your heartburn, then keep it out of your diet as much as possible. If you don’t notice any changes, continue to try removing the other foods.
  4. Drink between meals and not during meals. 
  5. Reduce your stress. 

Heartburn in Pregnancy Summary

I hope this article has helped you see that you have many options when it comes to heartburn relief in pregnancy. I would love to hear about what has worked best for you in finding relief.