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Pregnancy heartburn and indigestion

Heartburn and indigestion are common in pregnancy because of hormone changes and the pressure of a growing baby in the womb pressing on the stomach. The symptoms may be felt more after the 27th week of pregnancy.

Indigestion symptoms are often felt after eating and include feeling full, sick, nauseous, regurgitation, belching or burping. The NHS says indigestion affects as many as eight out of 10 women during pregnancy.

Heartburn describes a burning pain in the chest due to reflux of stomach acid moving up from the stomach into the tube leading to the mouth, called the oesophagus.

Pregnancy hormones can cause the lower oesophageal sphincter (the muscular valve between the stomach and oesophagus) to relax, allowing stomach contents (including acid) to travel back up into the oesophagus. In addition, the enlarged uterus can crowd the abdomen, pushing stomach contents upwards.

Prevention and treatment of heartburn during pregnancy

To reduce heartburn during pregnancy without putting your baby at risk, consider the following tips:

  • Eat several small meals a day instead of three large ones.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Avoid foods identified as triggering heartburn, which may include fried, spicy, acidic or rich foods.
  • Drink less while eating. Drinking large amounts while eating may increase the risk of acid reflux and heartburn.
  • Do not lie down directly after eating.
  • Keep the head of your bed higher than the foot of your bed to help prevent stomach contents from rising into your chest.
  • Ask your doctor, pharmacist or midwife about medicines which are safe to use during pregnancy.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes. Tight-fitting clothes can increase the pressure on your stomach and abdomen.

If your heartburn persists, seek medical advice. Your doctor may prescribe medicines that are safe to take during pregnancy. Heartburn usually disappears following childbirth.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 24, 2015

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