Acupuncture for heartburn during pregnancy

What is heartburn?

  • During pregnancy, increased levels of progesterone and estrogen relax the smooth muscle tissue in the body. For the digestive tract, this can mean general indigestion & heartburn.
  • It is the burning pain felt when digestive juices counterflow through the cardiac sphincter at the top of the stomach and into the esophagus.
  • Heartburn can appear at any time during pregnancy and is very common in later pregnancy. This is due to the uterus physically pushing up into the diaphragm and stomach.
  • Symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe pain with vomiting. This can lead to loss of sleep and limited food intake. Some women can only sleep propped up on pillows.

How can Chinese medicine help?

  • Regular acupuncture sessions during your pregnancy can provide a drug free alternative for reducing or eliminating your heartburn.
  • The Stomach and Spleen organ systems, in Chinese medicine, are responsible for receiving and distributing nutrients throughout the body. Disruption in the Stomach’s ability to descend these nutrients results in the upward movement of energy and the symptom of heartburn.

1. Calms the effects of the pregnancy hormones that are responsible for heartburn.

2. Diminishes the frequency and severity of symptoms with regular visits.

3. Lessens or eliminates the need for antacids.

4. Promotes improved sleep by allowing the woman to sleep comfortably in her preferred position.


  • Acupuncture is a very effective treatment for heartburn, even for those women who are experiencing severe symptoms.
  • Women can usually be treated 1 time per week and then 1 time per month or as needed.
  • Ear press needles are a very safe, easy and practical option for “take home” acupuncture. The acupuncturist will provide the woman with specific instructions based on her particular needs.
  • Contact your midwife or doctor if there is no improvement.


  • It is best not to indulge in large meals and stay away from foods that will aggravate any indigestion. These include highly seasoned, rich, fatty or fried foods, processed meats, chocolate, coffee, alcohol and carbonated beverages.
  • Drinking peppermint tea and decreasing the consumption of yeast-containing foods may also be helpful.


  • Arrange time for rest each day. It is easy to overwork especially in the beginning of a pregnancy.
  • Have an assortment of pillows on hand if you do need to sleep propped up.
  • Incorporate a daily stress reduction practice like walking around the block, reading for enjoyment, or working on your favorite hobby.

Other resources


Acupuncture for dyspepsia in pregnancy