Most pregnant women experience indigestion, which is a common problem during this phase. The hormonal fluctuations and physical changes that occur in the body during pregnancy cause dyspepsia or indigestion.
Indigestion, which is characterized by stomach aches or discomfort in the upper abdomen, is most common at the end of the second trimester. In addition, indigestion during pregnancy contributes to other common pregnancy-related issues such as bloating, nausea, and heartburn.
What causes indigestion during pregnancy?
Indigestion is more prevalent during pregnancy because of:
Progesterone levels rise during pregnancy to support the baby’s development. This relaxes the muscles, including the intestines, which slows the metabolism and causes indigestion during pregnancy.
Because of progesterone, stomach contents last longer than usual. Heartburn becomes more likely as digestion slows and the stomach remains fuller for longer periods of time.
Especially in the later stages of pregnancy, the growing baby puts pressure on your tummy, limiting the room to hold food. Even a small meal causes you to feel full and puts pressure on your intestines, impairing digestion.
After a meal, you may feel a strong burning sensation as the relaxed muscles between the stomach and esophagus push the acids back into the food pipe. This causes pain in the chest and abdomen.
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Aside from the reasons stated above, your risk of indigestion increases if you:
- Have had indigestion issues prior to pregnancy
- Are in the final stages of pregnancy
- Suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Suffer from hernias
- Consume large meals, fatty foods, or caffeinated beverages.
- Engage in any physical activity soon after eating.
- Are expecting more than one child
Depending on the baby’s development, indigestion during pregnancy may be more prominent during certain trimesters.
What are the symptoms of indigestion during pregnancy?
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Indigestion symptoms vary from woman to woman. They are usually felt after eating and include:
- Discomfort during or following a meal
- Heartburn is a burning sensation that rises from the stomach
- Stomach ache and discomfort
- Feeling heavy
- Regurgitation (food returning to the food pipe)
- Vomiting and nausea
The aforementioned signs and symptoms appear and disappear throughout the day. They are known to become more severe and frequent as you approach the third trimester.
How long does indigestion during pregnancy last?
Indigestion can occur at any time during pregnancy, even in the first trimester, though it is more common in the second and third trimesters.
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Indigestion during early pregnancy
Indigestion during the early stages of pregnancy may be caused by changes in hormone levels.
During pregnancy, your hormone levels change, affecting how you tolerate and digest food. Hormones frequently slow down your digestive system. Food moves more slowly, resulting in bloating and heartburn.
Indigestion in pregnancy: Second trimester
Indigestion becomes more common in the second or third trimester and may be caused by your baby pushing up against your stomach. During pregnancy, up to 8 out of 10 women may experience indigestion.
Your uterus competes for space with some of your other organs as it expands with your growing baby. Your growing uterus squeezes your stomach like a tube of toothpaste, increasing the likelihood that stomach acids will spill out, especially if your stomach is full.
At the same time, your stomach will be squeezed more frequently as your uterus grows. This could explain why heartburn becomes more common as a pregnancy progresses.
Is indigestion harmful to your baby?
No, indigestion is not harmful to the baby, despite the fact that it is uncomfortable and painful for you. Slower digestion may benefit the baby by giving the body more time to pass nutrients into the placenta.
How to avoid indigestion during pregnancy
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1. Keep an eye on your diet
Unsurprisingly, acidic and spicy foods produce more stomach acid than bland foods. Citrus, tomatoes, onions, garlic, caffeine, chocolate, sodas, and other acidic food should be avoided. Also, avoid fried or fatty food, which slow digestion.
2. Instead of three meals a day, eat several small meals throughout the day.
This avoids overburdening the stomach and allows it to empty more quickly. Include several small meals throughout the day rather than three large meals. Eat your meal slowly and thoroughly before swallowing it.
3. Sit up straight when eating.
Gravity will aid in the retention of your food. Avoid putting undue strain on your stomach, especially after eating. Sit up straight and allow at least one to two hours before lying down before going to bed.
4. Eat nothing within three hours of going to bed.
Giving your digestion a head start before you lie down for the night, which slows the emptying of your stomach, will help control your heartburn.
5. Do not smoke.
Heartburn is just one of the many reasons why you should not smoke during pregnancy. Cigarette chemicals relax the valve that keeps stomach contents down. This allows acids and undigested foods to splash upward and strike.
6. When sleeping, elevate your head 6 to 9 inches.
Placing pillows under your shoulders, raising the head of your bed with blocks placed beneath the bed’s legs, or purchasing a special wedge pillow to place between the mattress and box spring are the simplest ways to accomplish this. Another way to make gravity work for you is to sleep propped up.
7. Wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothing
Remove your Spanx
and any other garment that puts pressure on your midsection. Rock your baby bump and your stretchy, comfy pants!
8. Drink after meals.
If you drink liquids with your food, you may be creating an overfull, sloshy stomach environment that is conducive to heartburn. Best to take your liquids after you have properly digested your meal.
A 2015 study found no difference in symptoms between pregnant women who received acupuncture and those who did not, but the women who received acupuncture did report improvement in their ability to sleep and eat.
10. Don’t consume alcohol.
Aside from the fact that alcohol
can cause a variety of issues for your developing baby, ranging from low birth weight to learning disabilities, it can also relax the valve that keeps stomach contents in the stomach. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, which aggravate indigestion. Ideally, you should avoid these during pregnancy.
11. Discuss heartburn medications with your doctor.
This includes over-the-counter (OTC) medications, some of which are safe to take during pregnancy.
Antacids work by neutralizing the acid in your stomach and relieving the burning sensation. According to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, over-the-counter antacids containing calcium carbonate (such as Tums) are safe to use.
If lifestyle changes haven’t relieved your heartburn, your doctor may recommend heartburn medications such as Tagamet and Prilosec, which are generally considered safe during pregnancy. While these medications are available over-the-counter, your doctor may write you a prescription for a higher dose if he or she believes it is necessary.
Pregnancy heartburn medication to avoid
Before taking any antacids
, consult your doctor. Some contain ingredients that could be harmful to you or your baby. Take care not to take ranitidine.
The FDA halted sales of ranitidine (the active ingredient in older Zantac products) in 2020 due to contamination with a cancer-causing agent. Stop using over-the-counter ranitidine. If you have a prescription for ranitidine, consult your doctor before discontinuing your medication.
When should you seek medical attention?
Indigestion during pregnancy and its associated symptoms can be frightening, especially if you have never had them before. If the above remedies do not work and the symptoms worsen, consult a doctor. Contact your health practitioner right away if you are:
- Having difficulty swallowing food
- Vomiting blood
- Having excessive heartburn
- Can’t sleep because of a burning sensation
- Seeing black stools
- Losing a lot of weight
While indigestion during pregnancy is common and unpleasant, it should go away once you give birth and your hormone levels return to normal.
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