Indigestion and heartburn

Indigestion, also called heartburn or acid reflux is a common problem during pregnancy. It is caused by hormonal changes and the growing baby pressing against your stomach.

Symptoms of indigestion and heartburn:

  • A burning pain in the chest
  • Feeling full, heavy, or bloated
  • Burping or belching
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Bringing up food

Typically, symptoms of heartburn appear after eating or drinking. During pregnancy, symptoms of indigestion and heartburn could appear at any point but are more prevalent from 27 weeks onwards. 

How to manage indigestion and heartburn

  • Eat healthily: The likelihood of indigestion increases when you are full. During pregnancy, you might be tempted to eat more than you normally would; however, this might not be good for you or your baby.
  • Change your eating and drinking habits: Indigestion could be controlled by changing your eating habits such as eating small meals frequently rather than larger meals three times a day and not eating within 3 hours of going to bed. In addition, decreasing the consumption of caffeine-containing drinks and foods that are rich, spicy, or fatty, could ease the symptoms.
  • Keep upright: Sit up straight when you eat; this will take the pressure off your stomach. Propping your head and shoulders up when you go to bed can stop stomach acid coming up while you sleep.
  • Quit all smoking: Smoking during pregnancy could cause indigestion and severely harm your baby’s health. 
  • Avoid any alcohol: Drinking alcohol can cause indigestion and severe long-term harm to the baby.

When to get medical help
If changes to your diet and lifestyle fail and you need help managing your symptoms, consult your midwife or doctor. They may recommend medicine(s) to ease your symptoms. Furthermore, you should seek professional help if you have any of the following:

  • Difficulty eating 
  • Difficulty keeping food down
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach ache

Taking prescription medicines
When taking prescription drugs, make a note of the following: 

  • Speak to your doctor if you are taking medication for another condition, such as antidepressants, and you think it might contribute to your indigestion.
  • Never stop taking a prescribed medication unless advised so by your doctor

Medicines for indigestion and heartburn
Medicines for indigestion and heartburn during pregnancy include:

  • Antacids: to neutralize the stomach acid 
  • Alginates: to relieve indigestion caused by acid reflux by stopping the stomach acid coming back up your gullet

You might take antacids and alginates when you start experiencing symptoms or before the appearance of symptoms, for example, before a meal or before bed.

Causes of indigestion in pregnancy
Symptoms of indigestion appear when the stomach acid irritates your stomach lining or gullet. The likelihood of experiencing indigestion increases during pregnancy because of:

  • Hormonal changes
  • The baby pressing against your stomach
  • The relaxation of muscles between your stomach and gullet, allowing the stomach acid to come back up


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