Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, can be very annoying in pregnancy. It is quite common – according to estimates 8/10 women experience indigestion at some point during a pregnancy. It can be bothersome at the least, and debilitating at its worst.

Indigestion is best described as a burning pain in the chest, caused by acid moving back up into the esophagus from the stomach. Symptoms include burning pain, burping, nausea and feeling full.

When you’re pregnant, you are more likely to have indigestion due to:

hormonal changes that your body is going through

your growing womb (uterus) pressing on your stomach

the relaxing of the lower oesophageal sphincter (ring of muscle) that acts like a gate between your stomach and your oesophagus, allowing stomach acid to leak back up

You may be more likely to get indigestion in pregnancy if:

you had indigestion before you were pregnant

you have been pregnant before

you are in the latter stages of pregnancy.

Here are some ways to control indigestion during pregnancy:

Switch to five or six small meals a day. To avoid heartburn in pregnancy try eating small regular meals and snacks and avoid large meals. It is a myth you need to eat for two, so don’t go mad and eat tons more than you normally would.

Avoid spicy, fatty and fried foods. It is not unheard of for women to crave a curry during pregnancy but eating lots of spicy, fatty or rich food can make indigestion worse. Raw onions, say in a salad, can also cause pain to creep in after a meal.

Drink milk. Some women swear by drinking a glass of milk to calm the feelings of indigestion. Yogurt and ice-cream may have a similar ‘cooling’ effect. But it may not work for everyone as some women may find that dairy products make their symptoms worse. Diluting milk with one part milk and two parts water also helps with keeping the fiery acid down.

Keep a note of foods that trigger heartburn and try to avoid them. The causes of indigestion can differ widely from woman to women. For some, fizzy or caffeinated drinks may be the cause. For others it is fruit juice or tomato-based sauces. By working out what foods cause your indigestion, you can reduce your chances of it happening. But be careful you don’t cut out whole food groups which can provide vital nutrients for baby.

Don’t eat late at night. When you lie down, it makes it easier for stomach contents to rise up and cause you grief. Eating late at night will mean little time for your body to digest what’s in there before you try and get some rest. If you do get hungry before bed, try to eat something small and plain as a snack.

Dr. Annie

Physician, mom and wife


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