Indigestion, heartburn and constipation

How can I manage these symptoms during pregnancy?

Indigestion, heartburn and constipation are very common during pregnancy and, while they typically won’t cause complications and disappear soon after giving birth, they can be very uncomfortable.

Changes in hormones are thought to be part of the underlying reason why these symptoms can be common during pregnancy, as this can lead to the relaxation of muscles between your oesophagus (food pipe from your mouth) and your stomach, potentially leading to acid reflux and heartburn; and also to the relaxation of bowel muscles, which can make it more difficult for food to move through the gut.

Increased pressure on your stomach from your growing baby is also thought to be linked to indigestion, particularly later in pregnancy.

There are some changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle that may help with the management of these symptoms. Some tips to help manage indigestion and heartburn include:

  • Aim to eat little and often rather than having large meals if you find this leads to symptoms.
  • Take time to eat and try not to rush meals or eat on the go.
  • Be mindful of your posture when eating and try to sit up straight to relieve some of the pressure on your stomach.
  • Keep a note of any particular foods or drinks that seem to be triggering symptoms for you and choose alternatives if possible. Some women find spicy, fatty or acidic foods or fizzy drinks can make indigestion worse.
  • Try not to eat too close to going to bed, and if symptoms are affecting your sleep, try propping yourself up in bed to see if this helps.

Some tips to help manage constipation include:

  • Increase your intake of fibre-rich foods, such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains such as wholemeal pasta and brown rice, beans and pulses, potatoes with the skin left on, and high-fibre breakfast cereals. The recommendation is to increase your fibre intake slowly to minimise side effects such as bloating.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. The recommendation is to drink around 6-8 glasses of fluid per day and it’s especially important to increase your fluid intake when increasing your fibre intake.
  • Keep active; even gentle activity can help. Discuss activity with your midwife and doctor before starting anything new and don’t suddenly start taking part in strenuous exercise.

If you’re struggling to manage your symptoms, please do discuss this with your midwife or doctor.

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