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Is the pregnancy myth about heartburn true?

Heartburn is one of the greatest sources of discomfort for pregnant women. It is caused by acid reflux which happens when the sphincter responsible for the tightening of the esophagus after food passage is left hanging loose due to the increased production of progesterone that causes relaxation and loosening of body parts to accommodate the growing fetus. Acid reflux occurs when the stomach acids burp up into the esophagus thereby feeling the lower part of the throat with sour and acidic fluids which can cause choking if received in shock. Heartburn is one of the symptoms of acid reflux. It is that burning sensation you have in your chest when the acidic fluids spring up to the esophagus.

Dietary changes have been recommended for managing this pregnancy side effect, although it stops after delivery.

Dietary changes include avoiding high-fat content foods, spicy foods, tomatoes and its products such as ketchup and sauce, peppermint, caffeine, and garlic.

Your posture during pregnancy either contributes to or prevents heartburn, lying down while eating or before an hour of eating triggers heartburn. Also lying on your back without elevated head support is also a trigger.

Now, in all these discomforts and subsequent adjustments, pregnant women have found solace in the fact that heartburn could either determine the gender of the baby(which a scan can do), and the hairiness of the fetus.

Let's look at the various myth associated with heartburn during pregnancy:

First myth

Heartburn during pregnancy is a definite sign that you are going to deliver a hairy baby. Not just the normal hair you see a newborn with, or the baldness or near baldness of a baby. They mean a full grown hair with length and mass, not just on the head, but every part of the body including the arms, chest, legs and every other part where hair grows.

Many mothers have affirmed this saying they had severe heartburns during pregnancy that no home remedy or medication could stop, and when it was finally time for delivery, the baby came out looking like monkeys, a term used to describe a very hairy person. Some even complained of how scared they were because of how hairy their babies were, especially if they gave birth to female babies.

The midwife assured one of the pregnant women that the baby would lose the hair during the first week of delivery.

The hair babies come out with unpigmented hair called lanugo which is produced by hair follicles in the womb to keep the baby warm in the second trimester. Normally, babies should lose their lanugo in the third trimester when they are preparing to be delivered which explains why some babies come out with a bald head. The ones with near bald head may have started shedding theirs around the 36th week as opposed to the normal 32nd week, while those with full hair follicles came out before the due date. Either way, the hair falls and a new and stronger hair comes out.

A woman said she left the hospital with a clip to her newborn baby’s hair, and she had severe heartburn during pregnancy. Some said the vacuum used to pull out the baby kept slipping off because of the hair.

Other women have refuted this claim, saying they had as much heartburn as others, but their baby came out with bald or normal hair. Others didn’t have heartburns at all and they delivered hairy babies.

What do science and research say about heartburns

Due to the popularity of the myth, researchers from Johns Hopkins University Hospital conducted a study to see if truly there is a link between heartburn and hairy babies and out of the 28 women that had heartburn during pregnancy, 23 were reported to deliver hairy and average hair babies.

Scientifically, it has been proven heartburn during pregnancy is a result of the loosened sphincter and not because your baby is hairy.

Women who gave birth to babies with hair had severe heartburn, not just moderate ones. Some had their babies hair push out of their dilating cervix, and they had to cut the hair when they went home with the bundle of joy to prevent it from entering the eyes.

10-12 women who didn't suffer heartburn gave birth to bald hair babies. During pregnancy, there is an increase in hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. The progesterone hormone is the main culprit which causes relaxation of hormones and makes the digestive tract slow thus causing constipation and heartburn. Estrogen hormones help in promoting hair growth, so if you have more estrogen than normal, and as a result, severe heartburn, you are likely to birth a baby with lots of hair.

Second myth

Another pregnancy myth about heartburn is when you have severe heartburn during pregnancy, you will most definitely give birth to a boy. This myth has a poor acceptance when compared to the myth about hairy babies. There is also no research that validates the myth. Heartburn will not determine the gender of your baby; only a scan can do that if you do not want to wait until delivery.


Heartburn is caused by the increased production of progesterone which causes the valve around the esophagus to relax thereby causing acids to regurgitate from the stomach to the esophagus. The stomach contents and acids that go back up is the cause of the burning sensation felt in the chest.

Avoid heartburn by eating small meals and avoiding caffeine products such as coffee, soda, chocolate, and tea.

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