Indigestion and pregnancy go hand-in-hand. On top of the morning sickness, swelling and fatigue, your body’s digestive system also goes through changes that can lead to some uncomfortable symptoms. Indigestion and heartburn are two things that plague pregnant women, but we’re going to share secrets from doctors and experienced moms on how to beat the indigestion blues.
But first, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you’re experiencing indigestion and the signs and symptoms to look out for.
Table of Contents
- What Causes Indigestion during Pregnancy?
- Can Indigestion Harm My Baby?
- Is Indigestion Common During Pregnancy?
- What are the Symptoms of Indigestion?
- 10 Ways to Kick Indigestion to the Curb
- When to See a Doctor
What Causes Indigestion during Pregnancy?
Like other pregnancy ailments, indigestion is often caused by high levels of pregnancy hormones, mainly progesterone. Progesterone relaxes the muscles in the body, and that includes the digestive tract. As a result, your digestion is slowed, and you’re more likely to experience:
- Bloating (Here is the guide of how to deal with bloating)
- A sensation of feeling full even if you’ve only eaten a small amount of food
- Acid reflux
While hormones are usually to blame, there are other things that can cause indigestion:
- Eating too quickly
- Certain medications
- Eating chocolate or drinking caffeinated beverages
- Eating a large meal
- Laying down after eating
- Eating garlic, onions or spicy food (can you eat spicy diet while having a baby?)
- Eating fatty or greasy foods
Later in on your pregnancy, you may also experience indigestion as your ever-growing womb puts pressure on your stomach. Typically when you eat, food moves down through the esophagus (between your stomach and mouth). At the bottom of the esophagus is a circular valve that stays closed when you’re not eating to prevent stomach acid from rising up.
Each time you swallow, that valve relaxes to allow liquid and food to pass through. If the valve is relaxed when you’re not eating, stomach acids can rise back up into the esophagus, which creates a burning sensation and irritates the throat.
Can Indigestion Harm My Baby?
No. Indigestion is no walk in the park for you (mom-to-be), but it won’t harm your baby. In fact, slower digestion is typically beneficial for your baby because it gives your body more time to pass the nutrients to the placenta.
Is Indigestion Common During Pregnancy?
Yes. Studies suggest that eight out of ten women will experience indigestion during their pregnancy.
What are the Symptoms of Indigestion?
Indigestion occurs after eating a meal. The primary symptoms include:
- Pain or discomfort in the stomach or chest
- Heartburn, a burning sensation caused by stomach acid rising to the esophagus
- A heavy or uncomfortable feeling
Symptoms may be experienced at any time during your pregnancy, but they tend to be more intense and frequent after the 27th week.
10 Ways to Kick Indigestion to the Curb
Don’t let indigestion ruin your day – or evening. Use these 10 tips to beat indigestion and start enjoying food again.
1. Take an Antacid
The first tip is a no-brainer, but many women are leery of taking antacids for indigestion because they’re afraid it will hurt the baby. Luckily, this is one of the few over-the-counter medicines that is safe to use during pregnancy. And it’s one of the most effective ways to get rid of indigestion quickly.
2. Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals
It’s a myth that you need to eat for two. In fact, overindulging may be the culprit for your heartburn and indigestion.
Instead, doctors recommend eating more frequently and only eating a little bit at a time. Try eating five or six times a day to keep your digestive system moving and avoid overloading it with too much food.
3. Watch Your Weight
Yes, you’re pregnant, so you should be gaining weight – but not too much. Gaining too much weight too quickly will put even more pressure on your digestive system, and those extra pounds can make indigestion symptoms worse.
Do your best to stay within the 25-30 pound range, which is recommended by most doctors.
4. Avoid Trigger Foods
Certain foods can trigger heartburn or indigestion. Try to avoid the following foods and drinks:
Some women may also experience indigestion after eating raw onions, garlic or peppermint. Try keeping a food journal and making note of which foods are causing your symptoms. Eliminating these foods from your diet may prevent your symptoms from returning in the future.
5. Avoid Late Night Binges
If you have a tendency to eat before bed, you may be making heartburn and indigestion worse. Laying down after a meal makes it easier for stomach acid to rise up into the esophagus, causing heartburn and indigestion.
When you eat late at night, you don’t give your body much time to digest the food before you go to bed. If you must eat before bed, try eating just a small, plain snack.
6. Keep Your Head Elevated
Even if your last meal was hours before bed, try keeping your head propped up on pillows at night (about six inches). Keeping your head elevated will help prevent stomach acid from creeping up into the esophagus.
7. Sit Upright When Eating
Many of us have a tendency to slouch or slump over when we sit down, which can make it more difficult for your body to digest food. Laying down will hinder digestion, too, so sit upright with your back straight while you eat.
And if you have to bend, make sure that you do it at the knees – not the waist. Bending forward will send all of the stomach acid straight to your esophagus.
8. Try a Natural Remedy
Just as there are foods that can trigger indigestion, there are also foods that can provide you with relief from your symptoms. Here are some natural remedies to try:
- Almonds: Rich in calcium and great for settling the stomach.
- Papaya: Ripe papaya can alleviate heartburn and indigestion symptoms. Avoid unripe papaya as they can cause uterine contractions. You can also ask your doctor about taking chewable papaya enzymes.
- Honey and warm milk: Comforting and soothing, a warm glass of milk with honey can give you much-needed relief. But not all women have luck with dairy – it can sometimes make symptoms worse.
9. Wear Appropriate Clothing
Avoid wearing clothing that’s too tight as this can put more pressure on your stomach and make your symptoms worse. Opt for loose-fitting, comfortable clothing.
10. Chew Your Food
Digestion is already slowed when you’re pregnant, so go with the flow and chew your food slowly. Remember, chewing is the first stage of the digestive process, but we often have a tendency to scarf down our meals as quickly as possible.
Take your time when eating. Chew your food thoroughly. Eating too quickly can also cause you to swallow air, which leads to gas. You’re already dealing with indigestion, you don’t need to add gas to the mix.
When to See a Doctor
Indigestion and heartburn can be alarming, especially if you never experienced these symptoms before your pregnancy. But in most cases, indigestion is mild and temporary.
With that said, severe symptoms may be a sign of a more serious medical condition. See your doctor if:
- You have trouble swallowing
- You’re spitting up blood
- Your heartburn returns after the antacid wears off
- Heartburn keeps you up all night
- You’re losing weight
- You’re passing black stools
If you’re concerned about your bouts of indigestion or heartburn, do not hesitate to talk to your doctor.