Heartburn and Pregnancy
Medical Author: Jay W. Marks, MD
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
"Doctor Jay! What can I do? I'm burning up!"
Linda was 7 months pregnant and the heartburn was overwhelming. To her, it seemed constant. She couldn't lie down at night. The discomfort of her bulging belly was nothing in comparison.
Linda has a lot of company. Heartburn (a symptom of gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD) occurs in one-quarter to one-half of all pregnant women. It usually begins in the first or second trimester of pregnancy and continues throughout the remainder of the pregnancy. Fortunately, the heartburn is usually mild and intermittent, but frequently enough, it is troublesome or severe. Complications of GERD (esophageal bleeding, trouble swallowing, loss of weight, etc.) are uncommon. In non-pregnant circumstances, heartburn is easily and successfully treated since there are several types of medication that are highly effective in relieving heartburn. The problem is that we do not know how safe these medications are for the developing fetus, and no one is going to test them in pregnant women to find out! About the best we can do is test them in pregnant animals at doses much higher than would ever be used in humans.