Even if you rarely or never had heartburn before your pregnancy, it's likely to occur while you're carrying your baby, most commonly during the second or third trimester. In fact, the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) reports that more than 50 percent of all pregnant women experience heartburn.

What it is about expecting a baby that makes heartburn more common? And, more importantly, is there anything that can be done about it?

Understanding Heartburn

Heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux or acid reflux, is generally caused when stomach acid slips into the esophagus through a valve connecting the two organs. Whether or not you're pregnant, certain things can increase the likelihood of flare-ups, including lying down after eating, eating greasy or spicy foods, or consuming caffeine

However, according to the March of Dimes Foundation, which aims to improve the health of babies, the hormones released during pregnancy can exacerbate heartburn. These hormones act to relax the valve near the esophagus and the other muscles in the digestive system, which means it's easier for more stomach acid to leak out.

In addition, as the pregnancy progresses, heartburn may become worse due to increased pressure on the stomach from the growing baby. These changes can also make you feel bloated and flatulent.

Getting Heartburn Relief

Though heartburn is common, it is possible to reduce the frequency and intensity of your symptoms. If you already have heartburn, try one of the following suggestions:

  • Eat yogurt, recommends the American Pregnancy Association (APA). The live cultures in yogurt may help aid digestion.
  • Try some honey in a warm glass of milk, which may help neutralize stomach acid, according to the APA.
  • Take antacids recommended by your doctor. In general, it's best to avoid antacids that contain sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) because it can lead to increased swelling in the feet and legs.

Preventing Pregnancy Heartburn

To avoid getting heartburn in the first place, try the following tips:

  • Stay away from greasy, fried, spicy, or fatty foods. These can all trigger heartburn, according to the ACG.
  • Don't lie down immediately after eating. The March of Dimes recommends that you sit up or walk around while your body digests after a meal. If you need to get off your feet, try propping your upper body up with some pillows. You may even want to consider raising the head of your bed.
  • Eat smaller portions, more often. The APA recommends eating five or six small meals, instead of three large meals. Make sure your last meal is a few hours before you go to sleep.
  • Don't wear tight clothes. The ACG says clothes that fit tightly around the waist put more pressure on the stomach and the valve near the esophagus.

The good news is that after you deliver your baby, the heartburn and indigestion are likely to go away.