Heartburn & Indigestion during Pregnancy

Many women suffer from both heartburn (acid reflux) and indigestion during pregnancy. Did you know that 8 out of 10 women experience indigestion at some point during their pregnancy? And during the third trimester, nearly three-quarters of pregnant women suffer from heartburn. During pregnancy, your body goes through a lot of changes, both physical and hormonal. Some of the changes are visible and others are not. These can affect you in ways you might not have expected. Find out more about the causes of heartburn and indigestion during pregnancy, and how you can treat them.

Symptoms of heartburn & indigestion during pregnancy

Many factors could cause the problem to occur, from the hormonal changes during early stage of pregnancy that affect how digestive muscles work, to the physical pressure of the baby pushing your stomach and intestines during the later stages of pregnancy. The symptoms of heartburn and indigestion are the same to anyone who suffers from it. Even if it is very common to experience these symptoms, it does not take away the fact that these can be painful and make the pregnancy more difficult on the body.
Often heartburn and indigestion are more obvious after eating a meal. However, there are times that symptoms begin later. Signs of heartburn and indigestion can include:
  • Feeling bloated or full
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling a burning sensation in your chest
It is possible to experience heartburn and indigestion at any point during your pregnancy. The symptoms may become more severe during the later stages of pregnancy, from 27 weeks onwards.1

Causes of heartburn & indigestion during pregnancy

Indigestion occurs when stomach acid comes into contact with the lining of your digestive system.1 When this stomach acid leaks to your esophagus, this can result in heartburn. As your body changes during pregnancy, you are more likely to experience symptoms of heartburn and indigestion because of the following main causes:
  1. Hormonal changes in your body. The surge in the hormone progesterone causes muscles to relax. This includes the sphincter (ring of muscle) at the entrance to the stomach. When this relaxes, stomach acids can travel back up into the esophagus (food pipe) causing heartburn.
  2. Pressure on the stomach. During the latter stages of pregnancy, symptoms can also be caused by the baby physically exerting pressure on the mother's digestive tract. As your baby grows, your growing womb will exert more pressure on your stomach. This can lead to symptoms of heartburn and indigestion.
There are some simple steps you can take to help relieve your symptoms.

How to treat heartburn & indigestion during pregnancy

If you are pregnant and you are suffering from heartburn, it is important to remember that you are not alone and you don’t need to suffer much longer. We will discuss below few simple lifestyle changes that can significantly have an effect in relieving painful symptoms of heartburn and indigestion during pregnancy.

• Discover and Eliminate Trigger Foods

Different foods affect different people. It is therefore important to discover what foods trigger your heartburn and indigestion symptoms. To discover what affects you, try keeping a food diary and noting down any foods or drinks that make you feel ill.
Certain foods have been linked to triggering heartburn and indigestion. You may find that avoiding the following foods can help to relieve symptoms of heartburn and indigestion:
  • Tea & Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Softdrinks
  • Fried, Fatty & Spicy Foods
  • Citrus Fruits & Drinks1
Aim for a healthy and balanced diet. Try eating smaller portions of meal during the day, rather than three big meals. This can also help prevent symptoms of heartburn and indigestion.1
Eat at least 3 to 4 hours before laying down, or going to bed. Allowing enough time for your body to rest can help digest your food properly which in turn can help you prevent heartburn and indigestion.1

• Do not smoke

Pregnant women are strongly advised to avoid smoking because of the chemicals that enter their body from inhaling cigarette smoke. Smoking during pregnancy does not only cause indigestion, but it will also have adverse effects on your baby’s health.
These chemicals can cause the ring of muscle at the lower end of your esophagus to relax. When this relaxes, stomach acids can travel back up into the esophagus (acid reflux) thus causing heartburn. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing that you can do for yourself and your baby.

• Avoid drinking alcohol

Alcohol consumption can trigger symptoms of indigestion. Your baby can also become prone to developing severe congenital disabilities once exposed to alcohol.
Pregnant women are strongly advised to stop drinking alsohol during their pregnancy to reduce risks to your unborn baby. Beyond heartburn and indigestion, drinking alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage.1

• Allow Food to Digest

It is crucial to allow your body time to properly digest your food when trying to avoid heartburn and indigestion. With that in mind, you should allow yourself three to four hours after eating before you lay down. Laying in a horizontal position can make it easier for the stomach acids to rise back up into the esophagus.

• Sitting Up Straight

Sitting and sleeping in a more upright position can do a lot of good. Be mindful of your posture and keep your back straight when you are eating and for another half an hour afterwards. This can be a straightforward and easy way to help avoid indigestion when you are pregnant. Bacause sitting in this position will take pressure off of your stomach – as long, of course, as this is comfortable for you and you have enough support for your back.
Another thing to think about when going to bed is placing something underneath your mattress, which will keep your upper body elevated while you sleep. Again, this will make it harder for any stomach acid to rise into your esophagus while you sleep that causes that burning pain in your chest.

• Avoid Bending Over Where Possible

Of course, you may need to bend over to pick something up from time to time, as long as it is safe and comfortable for you to do so, but when possible try just to bend your knees rather than bending down from your waist.

• Wear Loose Fitting Clothing

Apart from being more comfortable while you are pregnant, loose fitting clothing can affect your heartburn and indigestion symptom for the better. Tight clothes, especially around the waistband can put pressure on your stomach because maternity wear can be significant in helping to reduce symptoms.

• Consider over-the-counter (OTC) medication

If some of these lifestyle changes still are not helping, you could try an over-the-counter option.
There are some products in the Gaviscon range that are suitable to use during pregnancy. Gaviscon Double Action, for example, is suitable to use when you are pregnant and can help combat the pain of heartburn and indigestion. It works by neutralising excess stomach acid and forming a protective barrier on top of the stomach.
Be sure that you check the label first to make sure it is a pregnancy friendly option. Medicines can affect unborn babies. Always talk to your doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy.
Sodium Alginate + Sodium Bicarbonate + Calcium Carbonate is the generic name of Gaviscon Double Action.
If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
ASC Reference code: R010P101217G

References:

[1] http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/indigestion-heartburn-pregnant.aspx

Gaviscon Products suitable for pregnancy

Gaviscon

Gaviscon

For fast and long lasting relief from heartburn.

Gaviscon Double Action

Gaviscon Double Action

Dual relief from heartburn and Indigestion.