Heartburn during pregnancy is one of the most common complaints, especially for women in their third trimester. Despite the name, your heart isn’t actually experiencing the burning sensation – the name “heartburn” more accurately describes an uncomfortable burning sensation that occurs behind the breastbone in the chest. Below, we will discuss what pregnancy heartburn is, short-term treatment options, and whether it should go away after your pregnancy.

What is pregnancy heartburn?

Heartburn occurs when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly, allowing stomach acid to rise into the esophagus. During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone can cause the LES muscle to relax, leading to the frequent occurrence of heartburn and irritation in the lining of the esophagus. Pregnancy heartburn is most prevalent during the third trimester of pregnancy because the growing baby often puts additional pressure on the intestines and the stomach.

Who can get pregnancy heartburn?

 Pregnancy heartburn can occur in anyone, whether a woman has experienced heartburn prior to pregnancy or not. In fact, most women will fall victim to heartburn at some point during their pregnancy. However, if you have experienced heartburn in the past, whether occasional or chronic, you are more likely to develop heartburn while you are pregnant.

Pregnancy Heartburn Triggers

There are certain behaviors that can cause pregnancy heartburn to worsen or occur more frequently. This includes eating spicy, fatty, or overly acidic foods or eating very large meals. Lying down in certain positions can also exacerbate pregnancy heartburn. Be mindful of what you’re eating and how much you’re eating – light snacking throughout the day is easier on your digestive system and will minimize your chances of experiencing heartburn.

Will my pregnancy heartburn go away after I have my baby?

For most women, pregnancy heartburn will subside shortly after your baby is born. For others, however,  the weakening of the LES does not correct and becomes a more permanent ailment that will need to be treated. If you can’t find relief from your pregnancy heartburn post-birth, you may elect to see a reflux specialist who can work to diagnose your GERD and find treatment options that work for your lifestyle.