What is it? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What is dyspepsia?

Dyspepsia or indigestion is discomfort, or pain in the upper abdomen. It usually occurs after eating, and can result in a feeling of over-fullness. In pregnancy it's caused by pregnancy hormones, as well as the extra pressure on the oesophagus (gullet) from your growing uterus.

In pregnancy, the commonest cause of dyspepsia is acid reflux, where stomach acid leaks out of the stomach and into the gullet. It affects around 80% of mums-to-be but usually resolves after the birth.

What are the symptoms of Dyspepsia?

Pain or a burning sensation in the upper abdomen, made worse by eating; food coming back up; bloating; belching; nausea and general abdominal discomfort.

What are the treatments and remedies of Dyspepsia?

If the problem is very troublesome, there are some medicines, such as antacids, that you can take in pregnancy. Talk to your midwife or doctor before taking them, though.

Dyspepsia rarely causes real problems, though, and you can usually help yourself by eating smaller meals more frequently or cutting out rich, spicy or 'windy' foods. Try not to eat within the three hours before going to bed, and sit upright when you do eat, to take the pressure off your stomach.

Some expectant mums find that relaxing or sleeping propped up with pillows rather than lying flat helps, and others swear by drinking ginger or chamomile tea and eating more garlic.

Medicines for indigestion and heartburn during pregnancy include over-the-counter antacids which neutralise the acid in your stomach and alginates which stop the acid in your stomach coming back up your gullet (known as acid reflux). You usually take antacids and alginates when you start getting symptoms. But, if your symptoms are not eased speak to your healthcare professional as they may suggest taking them before a meal or at bedtime.

If antacids and alginates don't improve your symptoms, your GP may prescribe ranitidine or omeprazole. Both are commonly used in pregnancy and not known to be harmful to an unborn baby.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net