The terms heartburn and indigestion are often used interchangeably but there's actually a difference. Indigestion includes a wide array of digestive issues, one of which is heartburn. Heartburn refers to stomach acid escaping into the esophagus.

There is an old wives’ tale that claims heartburn during pregnancy means the baby will have lots of hair. While there is little truth to this tale, it is true that many women still experience heartburn and other intense digestive issues (indegestion) while carrying baby.

Causes of Heartburn

Pregnancy hormones are responsible for relaxing muscles and ligaments to prepare your body for birth. The action of these hormones is not focused enough to affect just the muscles needed for birth, but relaxes other muscles including the stomach muscles that prevent acid from backing up into the throat. As the muscles relax, acid escapes and moves upward into the esophagus and toward the throat, causing the painful burning known as heartburn. As the pregnancy grows closer to birth, your baby's kicking feet and stretching hands may cause an increase in heartburn symptoms.

Managing indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy

Painful heartburn during pregnancy cannot be avoided, but it is one of the side effects of increasing pregnancy hormones that can be treated with ease. Moms can avoid the worst heartburn symptoms during pregnancy by avoiding foods that cause heartburn. Heatburn symptoms may be lessened by following these suggestions:

  • Avoid foods that increase heartburn symptoms including spicy, fried and high fat foods, alcohol, citrus, and caffeine. 
  • Drink more water.
  • Eat small meals, frequently.
  • Don’t lie down immediately after eating.

Women who are pregnant should also try to eat more slowly. Speeding through a meal can cause air to trap between swallows. This air can cause indigestion, which can lead to heartburn and gas. Eating fast also means you are not chewing foods thoroughly, which is another cause of heartburn.

Tums and Rolaids are safe for use during pregnancy and can help treat heartburn. Heartburn medications with sodium or sodium bicarbonate are not safe for pregnant moms so do not use them. Ask your doctor about taking over the counter antacids, or any other medication during pregnancy.

Other Common Pregnancy Conditions

It is normal to undergo many body changes duirng pregnancy, including digestive complaints and various aches and pains. Most are associated with hormones and the pain will stop when hormone levels return to normal. Some other common issues include: 

As with any symptom in general, call your doctor if you are concerned about something. Only your doctor can examine you to make sure your symptoms are OK.