What to Know About Heartburn and Pregnancy

Heartburn, a burning feeling in the chest or throat, is a common pregnancy symptom. It is caused by acid reflux when stomach acid moves up the esophagus. Heartburn is common in pregnant people because of changing hormones and body shape.

This article provides an overview of heartburn during pregnancy, including how it affects fertility and the postpartum period.

Pregnant woman with acid reflux

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Heartburn and Fertility

There is no evidence that heartburn or acid reflux affects one’s ability to become pregnant. However, some medications used to treat acid reflux are not safe during pregnancy. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are currently taking heartburn medication and considering becoming pregnant. 

Heartburn and Male Fertility

The medications used to treat acid reflux may also affect male fertility. A study found that taking acid reflux medication was associated with a lower sperm count, lowering fertility.

Is Heartburn Hereditary?

Heartburn may be hereditary, meaning it runs in families. If a close family member has a history of acid reflux, you may be more likely to experience it. 

Heartburn and Gestation

About 17% to 45% of pregnant people experience heartburn, which increases as the pregnancy progresses. A study found about 22% of pregnant people report heartburn in the first trimester, 39% in their second trimester, and 60% to 72% in their third trimester. 

Most pregnant individuals with heartburn did not have it before pregnancy. Pregnant people are more likely to experience heartburn because of the following physical changes:

  • Hormone levels: Increased levels of the hormones progesterone and relaxin cause the digestive system to slow down during pregnancy. This results in food sitting in the stomach longer, leading to bloating and heartburn. 
  • Relaxed muscles: The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a muscle connecting the esophagus and the stomach. When you eat, it opens to let food and liquid through, then close again. During pregnancy, the LES is more relaxed because of hormonal changes. This makes it easier for stomach contents to flow back up the esophagus. 
  • Growing uterus: As the fetus grows during the pregnancy, the uterus grows in size. Over time, the uterus starts to put pressure on the stomach. This causes stomach acids to be pushed up the esophagus, causing heartburn. 

Risk Factors

Risk factors for experiencing heartburn during pregnancy include:


Heartburn during pregnancy is usually uncomfortable but not serious. Most individuals notice relief from heartburn after the baby is born. 

Possible complications of heartburn during pregnancy may include:

  • Nighttime heartburn: If heartburn keeps you up at night, it’s time to talk with your healthcare provider. Insomnia during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of serious complications like preeclampsia (high blood pressure) and preterm labor. 
  • Asthma: Acid reflux can lead to lung damage over time. The medications used to treat asthma may worsen reflux symptoms, making the condition harder to treat. 
  • Respiratory issues: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can lead to a chronic cough, chest congestion, and wheezing. During pregnancy, the enlarged uterus puts pressure on the lungs, possibly worsening respiratory issues. 

Heartburn Treatment During Pregnancy

Diet and lifestyle changes are effective ways to manage heartburn for many pregnant people. However, heartburn will likely not resolve completely until after delivery since the physical changes of pregnancy cause it. 

Diet changes to treat heartburn include:

  • Eat several small meals throughout the day instead of three larger meals
  • Limit drinks while eating, and eat slowly
  • Avoid any fried, spicy, or fatty foods 
  • Limit caffeine and any citrus juices or fruits 
  • Stay upright during and after eating
  • Avoid late-night eating 

Natural remedies for heartburn during pregnancy include:

  • Eat yogurt or drink milk to neutralize stomach acids and ease heartburn
  • Stir a tablespoon of honey into warm milk and drink it when heartburn occurs
  • Elevate the head of your bed 

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for heartburn include Tums and Maalox.

Concerning Symptoms

While heartburn is common during pregnancy, it’s important to alert your healthcare provider of any new or worsening symptoms. When any of the following symptoms accompany heartburn, it may be a sign of a serious health problem:

  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting blood
  • Trouble eating or swallowing
  • Black stools 
  • Heartburn that keeps you up at night

Prevalence of Heartburn Diagnosis During Pregnancy

Heartburn is common during pregnancy and affects 17% to 45% of pregnant people in the United States. 

Heartburn and Postpartum

Fortunately, heartburn resolves with delivery for most pregnant people. If you continue to experience heartburn symptoms after your baby is born, talk with your healthcare provider. 

Impact on Recovery

The treatment for heartburn in the postpartum period is the same as during pregnancy. Diet and lifestyle modifications are recommended first. Unless your heartburn is severe or keeps you up at night, it should not affect your recovery from childbirth. 


It is safe to continue the diet and lifestyle modifications you were following during pregnancy while breastfeeding. If you continue to experience heartburn, talk with your healthcare provider about safe medications to take while breastfeeding.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

During pregnancy, it’s important to alert your healthcare provider of any new or worsening symptoms. Tell them if you have been experiencing heartburn more than two days per week and what medications or lifestyle changes you have tried. See your healthcare provider if you have been on OTC medications for two weeks with no improvement in your symptoms. 


Heartburn is a common symptom during pregnancy. It occurs when acid from the stomach travels back up the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest and throat. Diet and lifestyle modifications are the recommended treatment options for pregnant people. If lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications are ineffective, discuss prescription options with your healthcare provider. 

A Word From Verywell

Heartburn can be a normal part of pregnancy, but it's still uncomfortable. It may be helpful to remember that small changes in your diet and lifestyle could make a big difference. Talk with your healthcare provider if you're still experiencing a burning sensation in your chest after making changes to your diet. There may be additional treatment options that could provide some relief until your baby arrives.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes heartburn during pregnancy?

    Heartburn is common during pregnancy because of the physical changes that take place during this time. It is likely caused by changing hormone levels and body shape. For most pregnant people, heartburn resolves after delivery.

  • What can I take for heartburn during pregnancy?

    The first step in treating heartburn during pregnancy is changing your diet and lifestyle. Try spreading your meals out into several small meals throughout the day. Sit up straight while eating and avoid lying down right after. Talk with your healthcare provider about additional options.

  • Are there natural remedies for heartburn during pregnancy?

    For many pregnant people, diet and lifestyle changes are effective remedies for heartburn. Eating yogurt or drinking milk when heartburn occurs may help to soothe the burn.

14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practiced in a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.