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Why is heartburn during pregnancy a common problem?

Heartburn and acid reflux are common in pregnancy. In fact, it’s so common that patients and obstetricians both view it as a normal occurrence during a healthy pregnancy. 1,2,3

Estimates vary, but somewhere between 17% and 80% of women experience heartburn during pregnancy. 1,2,3

These symptoms may be frequent, severe and distressing, but serious complications for your baby are rare. 2

Symptoms can occur in all trimesters of pregnancy. 2 Most patients begin to note their symptoms late in the first trimester or second trimester of pregnancy with heartburn becoming more frequent and severe in the latter months of gestation. 1,3

If you’re suffering with symptoms of heartburn (such as a burning sensation behind your rib cage at the top of your chest 2,4,5) how can you tell what’s causing your discomfort?

What causes of heartburn during pregnancy?

The two most common causes of heartburn during pregnancy are:

  • Progesterone Surge – The surge in the hormone progesterone during pregnancy causes your muscles to relax. This includes the sphincter (ring of muscle) at the entrance to your stomach. When this relaxes, stomach acids can travel back up into your oesophagus (food pipe) to cause heartburn. 2,3
  • Pressure from Baby – as your baby grows and your uterus enlarges to make space for them, this puts pressure on your digestive tract. 2

What are the symptoms of heartburn in pregnancy?

How you can tell if you’re suffering from heartburn and how can you ease your pain?

Heartburn and indigestion symptoms during pregnancy do not differ from what’s experienced by the general (not pregnant) adult population, 3 although symptoms are generally most severe during the night. 1

For most pregnant women, the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion are similar:

  • A burning sensation in your chest or throat after eating 2,4,5,6
  • A hot sour or salty tasting fluid in the back of your throat 4
  • Pressure behind the breastbone 4
  • Feeling bloated 6
  • Needing to burp 6
  • Feeling sick 6

How can you ease your symptoms?

Two simple lifestyle changes - Although usually harmless to you and your baby, heartburn can be painful and uncomfortable. There are two things worth trying straight away:

  • Adopting a healthy diet
  • Sitting and sleeping in a more upright position

Ask your doctor about Gaviscon - Many Gaviscon products are suitable for use during pregnancy and can help ease the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion that often comes with it.

How can I treat heartburn in pregnancy?

Although usually harmless to you and your baby, heartburn can be painful and uncomfortable. Lifestyle modification is the key for treating mild symptoms. 1,3

  • A healthy diet – avoiding foods that can trigger heartburn, eating smaller meals and not eating late at night 3
  • Sitting and sleeping in a more upright position – by elevating the head of your bed 3

How can I treat heartburn in pregnancy?

What medicines are suitable to take for you and your baby?

During pregnancy, you’ll naturally be wary about taking medicines. However, you don’t need to put up with the symptoms of heartburn or indigestion as there are suitable remedies available.

Gavisсon Advance is a non-systemic medication (which means it doesn’t go in the bloodstream) so it’s suitable for use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. 1,7,8


In safety and effectiveness studies, pregnant women who rated Gavison as effective usually got symptom relief within 10 minutes of taking the medication. Frequency and severity of heartburn decreased both in the day and at night after treatment. 1,3

Medicines can affect the unborn baby. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine in pregnancy.

How does Gaviscon Advance work?

How Gaviscon Advance works:

  1. As you swallow Gaviscon liquid, it soothes the throat and oesophagus. 9
  2. When it gets to your stomach, it only takes a few seconds for the sodium alginate in Gaviscon to react with the acid in your stomach to create a protective barrier or raft that floats on top of stomach contents. This raft keeps stomach acid from rising up and causing heartburn and indigestion symptoms. 7,8

When should you take Gaviscon?

  • Take Gaviscon Advance when you experience heartburn symptoms, or when they start to occur, such as after meals or just before bedtime. Consult the package insert for the dosage that’s best for you. 7,8

Please note: All information presented is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. Always read the label before taking any medication. If symptoms are severe or prolonged, you should consult a doctor or pharmacist.


  1. Strugala V et al. Assessment of the Safety and Efficacy of a Raft-Forming Alginate Reflux Suppressant (Liquid Gaviscon) for the Treatment of Heartburn during Pregnancy. ISRN Obstet Gynecol, 2012: 1–6.
  2. Meteerattanapipat P & Phupong V. Efficacy of alginate-based reflux suppressant and magnesium-aluminium antacid gel for treatment of heartburn in pregnancy: a randomized double-blind controlled trial. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (44830): 1–6.
  3. Richter JE. Review article: the management of heartburn in pregnancy. Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 2005; 22: 749–757.
  4. Kahrilas PJ et al. Regurgitation is less responsive to acid suppression than heartburn in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol, 2012a; 10: 612–9.
  5. Vakil N et al. The Montreal Definition and Classification of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: A Global Evidence-Based Consensus. Am J Gastroenterol, 2006; 101:1900–1920.
  6. NHS Inform website: “Indigestion.” Updated 14 February, 2020. URL:
  7. S0 Gaviscon Advance Peppermint Package Insert, 8 February 2008.
  8. S0 Gaviscon Advance Aniseed Package Insert, 6 August 1999.
  9. Strugala V et al. A randomized, controlled, cross over trial to investigate times to onset of the perception of soothing and cooling by over-the-counter heartburn treatments. The Journal of International Medical Research, 2010; 38: 449-457.

Article published 1 January 2021