WARNING! All remedies, supplements, and over the counter (OTC) medications you take during pregnancy should be approved by your doctor! Many can have side effects that can harm the baby or interfere with other medications or supplements you are taking. Use this list to discuss relief options with your doctor. Your doctor should be in agreement with your choice of treatment.
Fewer Heartburn Remedies During Pregnancy…
Those who are pregnant have fewer remedies for heartburn relief than those who are not. Many foods, herbs, and OTC medications used for treating heartburn are considered harmful to the mother and/or fetus. Since there are limited treatment options, it’s best to prevent heartburn during pregnancy. When prevention doesn’t work, the following are some options you and your doctor might consider.
Ways to Relieve Heartburn During Pregnancy
- Foods: It is important to wash fruits and vegetables properly before peeling and/or eating to avoid harmful bacteria and germs. Raw fruits and vegetables can be contaminated with bacteria that can lead to serious illness.
- Fruits:Bananas contain natural antacids.
- Apples contain natural antacids and it’s acid content encourages the body to stop the natural production of stomach acid. You might try applesauce. It soothes going down and is easier to digest.
- Pears are alkaline and thus act as an antacid too. Just like the apple, pear sauce is a great alternative.
- Lemon helps prevent acid production. Combine the juice of one lemon with water and drink. Honey can be used to sweeten if needed.
- Grapes are good at relieving indigestion and upset stomach. Try 10 to see if they help. Though indigestion and heartburn aren’t the same, heartburn can be a symptom of indigestion.
- Fresh pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which can help the digestion process, reducing chances of acid reflux, and settle your stomach. Pineapple juice and canned pineapple are likely to contain little bromelain. The bottling and canning processes kill off the enzyme. Warning!: Do not take bromelain as a food supplement during pregnancy and watch how much pineapple you ingest. Eating a normal amount of fresh pineapple in pregnancy should not be harmful but excessive amounts of could cause the cervix to soften and increase the risk of miscarriage.
- Papaya contains a digestive enzyme that aids in the breakdown of proteins. Warning!: Avoid unripened papaya. Unripened papaya contains a high concentration of latex which can cause uterine contractions and could be unsafe in pregnancy.1
- Mango and guava can also sooth the stomach and bring heartburn relief.
- Vegetables: The alkalinity of many vegetables help balance stomach acid. If you are a juicer, try making up your own blend that works well for your system. If not, there are many juice blends available at the grocery. The best choice, however, is to learn to eat more vegetables.
- Mixed vegetable juice. Look for a juice or create a blend that had mostly alkaline vegetables.
- Cabbage juice is alkaline and helps neutralizes acid. Cabbage juice has many other medicinal benefits and can even heal stomach ulcers.
- Potato juice is alkaline and helps neutralizes acid and aids in healing the lining of the esophagus and stomach. When preparing potato juice, avoid green potatoes they contain toxins that are harmful to the fetus.
- Other alkaline vegetables that help neutralize acid are:
- Other Foods:
- Almonds are an alkaline food that can help neutralize stomach acid and the oils help slow acid production. Don’t eat too many. Three to eight should be enough. Because of their high-fat content, they might cause your heartburn to worsen if you eat too many.
- Pasteurized apple cider vinegar can help when the LES isn’t closing properly and allowing acid to reflux into the esophagus. It can help the LES tighten and close off. A tablespoon can be swallowed if you can withstand the taste and burning as it goes down or you can mix with water, apple juice, or apple cider. Diluting may reduce its effectiveness. You may have to experiment with the mixture to see if you can find what is acceptable to swallow without reducing its effectiveness. Vinegar is acidic and too much can cause the problem to worsen, so don’t over do it. I specifically state pasteurized. It is advised not to consume anything that isn’t pasteurized during pregnancy due to the possibility of harmful bacteria in unpasteurized products.
- Pasteurized buttermilk… You may have heard that milk helps. Don’t believe it! It can help temporarily but will stimulate stomach acid causing your heartburn to return with a vengeance shortly after. Buttermilk can sooth and also promotes healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract which can lower the instances of heartburn. Again, I specifically state pasteurized. It is advised not to consume anything that isn’t pasteurized during pregnancy due to the possibility of harmful bacteria in unpasteurized products.
- Your saliva is an acid buffer. One of the substances in saliva is bicarbonate, which neutralizes acid. Try chewing gum to stimulate your saliva production. Some gum flavors like mints might irritate heartburn. You may need to experiment to see which ones work best for you.
- Bland food like brown rice can help absorb acid and is easily digestible.
- Fruits:Bananas contain natural antacids.
- Herbal Teas: There is very little data on the use of herbs in pregnant women which means the safety of their use in teas is questionable due to the unknown. Herbal teas may contain substances that can cause miscarriage, premature birth, uterine contractions, or harm to the fetus. The FDA encourages caution when consuming herbal teas. If consumed, they should be consumed in moderation because of their unknown effect on mother and baby. Please consult your doctor before using herbal teas.
- Ginger tea helps a number of stomach issues from nausea to heartburn. Ginger lemon tea is also a good choice.
- Camomile tea reduces stomach inflammation and balances stomach acid levels. It also promotes relaxation reducing the sensitivity to heartburn brought on by stress.
- Slippery elm tea protects the esophagus and stomach lining against stomach acids by thickening the mucous lining.
- Marshmallow root tea can be used to coat the esophagus and stomach as well.
- Dandelion root tea is used to improve digestion, as well as a mild laxative to increase bowel movements and improve beneficial intestinal bacteria. Slowed digestion can lead to acid reflux and heartburn. Warning!: Do not drink dandelion root tea if you have gestational diabetes or taking high blood pressure medication.
- Supplements: There is very little data on the use of many herbal supplements in pregnant women which means the safety of their use is questionable due to the unknown. I will list references to studies were applicable. Please consult your doctor before using supplements.
- Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can improve the digestive process thus helping reduce heartburn. Probiotic supplements and fermented foods are great ways of introducing them into your system. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, probiotics do not appear to pose any safety concerns for pregnant and lactating women.2
- OTC Heartburn Medications:
- Antacids: Certain antacids are usually ok to take when pregnant. Those containing calcium or magnesium are typically considered safe. Those containing aluminum, aspirin, and bismuth subsalicylate should be avoided. Aluminum can cause constipation and toxicity in large dosages. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) should be avoided due to is high sodium content. And use of bismuth subsalicylate can result in absorption of salicylate which can cause and increase in fetal cardiac malformation.3 Antacids containing calcium or magnesium include:
- H2 Blockers: Do not use H2 blockers without a doctor’s advice if you are pregnant. If antacids aren’t working, the next level of over the counter acid control is a H2 blocker like Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet and Zantac. The FDA has assigned H2 blockers to the pregnancy category B. Animal testing has shown no evidence of impaired fertility or harm to the fetus, but know human studies have not been done. The benefit of taking these drugs during pregnancy should certainly outweigh the any risk to you or the baby.4,5
- PPI’s: Do not use proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) without a doctor’s advice if you are pregnant. Proton pump inhibitors are used to reduce stomach acid when antacids and H2 blockers aren’t providing the necessary relief. They expose the fetus to some level of risk, though it is considered minimal.6 PPIs include:
For related articles, please see:
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine “Papaya (Carica papaya) consumption is unsafe in pregnancy: fact or fable? Scientific evaluation of a common belief in some parts of Asia using a rat model.”
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine “Are probiotics safe for use during pregnancy and lactation?”
- Drugs.com “Bismuth subsalicylate Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Warnings”
- Drugs.com “Nizatidine Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Warnings”
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine “The safety of histamine 2 (H2) blockers in pregnancy: a meta-analysis.”
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine “Are proton pump inhibitors safe during pregnancy and lactation? Evidence to date.”