advice

pregnancy problems:
indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy

Easily two of the most common pregnancy side effects (not that that makes them any less irritating). Thankfully, there are a few ways you can ease heartburn and the other pesky symptoms of indigestion.

causes of heartburn and indigestion in pregnancy

Indigestion (also called dyspepsia) is caused by stomach acid. We need stomach acid to break down food, but if it comes into contact with the protective lining of your digestive system it can be a bit of a pain, to say the least. Indigestion is common in pregnancy for a few reasons:

  • your growing baby makes your womb push against your stomach
  • your hormones are running riot again
  • as your lower oesophageal sphincter relaxes, stomach acid can travel back up your oesophagus (your food pipe)

symptoms of heartburn and indigestion in pregnancy

Most pregnant women will get heartburn or another symptom of indigestion at some point. They usually come on after eating, or drinking, but can show up any time. Heartburn is when the stomach acid travels up the oesophagus. It feels like a burning pain in your chest and can be quite unpleasant. It's also a bit scary when you don’t know what it is. Other symptoms of indigestion include:

  • feeling bloated and uncomfortable
  • burping a lot
  • feeling or being sick

heartburn relief in pregnancy

There are a few things you can do to ease heartburn and other types of indigestion. These include:

  • stopping smoking
  • avoiding alcohol
  • eating smaller meals more frequently
  • sitting up straight when you’re eating
  • avoiding food spicy or fatty dishes, fruit juice and drinks with caffeine

If you feel worse at night, try to avoid eating less than three hours before bed. Propping your head and shoulders up on pillows can help too.

If these lifestyle changes don’t work, you might want to have a chat to your doctor about medication.

heartburn and indigestion medication in pregnancy

There are several over-the-counter and prescription medications available. These include:

  • antacids to neutralise acid
  • alginates to keep stomach acid where it’s supposed to be
  • acid-suppressing medicines, such as ranitidine and omeprazole (these will likely only be prescribed if antacids and alginates haven’t worked)

It's important to let your doctor and pharmacist know you’re pregnant so they recommend the right thing. It’s also worth checking out any side effects.

While heartburn and indigestion can seem relentless during pregnancy, they should ease up once you’ve had your baby. If symptoms carry on after the birth, let your GP know.