Nutrition During Pregnancy

Indigestion/Heartburn

Early in pregnancy indigestion or heartburn can be due to hormone changes.  These hormone changes can make the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach, relax more easily and allow stomach contents to push back into the esophagus.  (1) (2)

At the end of pregnancy it can be the size of your baby putting pressure on the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach that causes indigestion or heartburn.

The burning or pain you experience is caused by hydrochloric acid in your stomach being pushed into your esophagus.  Your stomach uses hydrochloric acid to digest your food and your stomach lining is made to handle it–your esophagus is not.

Ways to make you feel better:

  • Eat smaller amounts at meals.
  • You can try to drink fluids 1 hour before or 1 hour after eating to keep your stomach from becoming overly full.
  • Try not to bend over or lie down for at least an hour after eating.  If you want to rest, do so in a sitting position.  Try not eating 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Certain things can irritate the lining of your stomach.  For example:  fatty or fried foods, spicy foods, tomato products (example: catsup), citrus foods, carbonated beverages, chocolate, onions, peppermint, caffeine, alcohol and smoking. (1) Alcohol and smoking should be avoided in pregnancy because of the health risk to you and your baby.
  • Other things you eat can cause irritation to you individually.  Try not to take things out of your diet that are good for you or that you enjoy based on having indigestion one time.  Keeping a food log and noting when heartburn or indigestion occurs can help you find the food or activity that triggers your symptoms.
  • Try wearing loose fitting clothes, so tight fitting clothes or undergarments are not putting additional pressure on your stomach.
  • Medicines can sometimes help, check with your healthcare provider for a recommendation that is compatible with pregnancy.

References:

1. Heartburn  Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/heatlhy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20047208 and http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/basics/risk-factors/con-20019545  Accessed June 8, 2015

2. Wilson, WH, Lowdermilk, P, Maternal Child Nursing Care, 3rd Edition, St. Louis, MO, Mosby, 2006 p 250.