What to do when you suffer indigestion, heartburn in pregnancy

Getting pregnant is one of the greatest joys a woman experiences. The knowledge that another life is being nurtured and the mother is totally responsible for the being growing inside of her can be humbling and overwhelming at the same time. Though being pregnant is a huge responsibility and is one most women hope to experience, it doesn’t come without its own share of discomfort and challenges. One of the commonest conditions most pregnant women go through at some point throughout the nine month duration, is indigestion and heartburn.

Indigestion, which is also known as dyspepsia, is a term used to describe a feeling of fullness or discomfort during or after a meal. It can be accompanied by burning or pain in the upper stomach.

On the other hand, heartburn, as the name implies, is characterised by a strong, burning sensation in the chest region, specifically the oesophagus. It occurs when acid in the stomach refluxes, that is, comes back up from the stomach.

During pregnancy, indigestion and heartburns are largely linked to both hormonal and changes within the woman’s body. According to experts, during pregnancy, the placenta produces the hormone, progesterone, which relaxes the smooth muscles of the uterus (womb). This hormone also relaxes the valve that separates the oesophagus from the stomach, allowing gastric acids to seep back, which causes that uncomfortable sensation of heartburn. Progesterone also slows the wavelike contractions of the stomach, making digestion sluggish. While this is hormonal, in later pregnancy, physical change brought upon by the growing womb pressing on the stomach can also result to heartburn.

According to the Chief Executive Officer, Evergreen Health Consult and Social Care Intl Ltd, Mrs. Yemisi Solanke-Lawal, “indigestion and heartburn symptoms usually come on after eating food and every discomfort can be eased off by making changes to your diet and lifestyle. Some of the symptoms pregnant women suffering from indigestion and heartburn may experience include pain or feeling discomfort in the chest or stomach. This usually happens soon after eating or drinking, but there can sometimes be a delay between eating a meal and developing indigestion; feeling uncomfortable or heavy; belching, regurgitation (food coming back up from the stomach); bloating; nausea (feeling like vomiting) and vomiting.”

Although the occasional heartburn and indigestion may be a source of discomfort, it is a condition that can easily be relieved with home remedies. Mrs. Solanke-Lawal recommends the following:

  • Eat healthily to avoid indigestion. If you are pregnant, it can be tempting to eat more than you would normally, but this may not be good for you or your baby. You don’t need to “eat for two’’. Eat a variety of different foods everyday in order to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your baby need.
  • Change your eating habits. For example by eating smaller meals more frequently rather than larger meals three times a day, avoid eating within three hours of going to bed at night, or sit up straight when you eat because this will take the pressure off your stomach.
  • Avoid indigestion triggers (such as drinking juice, eating chocolate, bending over), take note of any particular food, drink or activity that seems to make your indigestion worse and avoid them if possible. This may mean eating less spicy and fatty foods, cutting down on drinks that contain caffeine such as tea, coffee and cola. Also when you go to bed, use a couple of pillows to support your head and shoulders up.
  • Avoid alcohol to ease indigestion.
  • Stop smoking to banish indigestion
  • If you have severe indigestion, or changes to your diet and lifestyle don’t work, your doctor, midwife or pharmacist may suggest using medication to ease your symptoms. So check with them before taking medication.