Heartburn is a common complaint for many women as their pregnancy progresses. The hormone progesterone relaxes the uterus and other muscles, including those around the sphincter of the stomach , which can allow acid contents of the stomach to escape back upwards causing heart burn.  Later on in pregnancy this will be aggravated by the physical presence of the baby who is causing the stomach to be pushed up.  In the same way, increased progesterone can also cause constipation, as the smooth muscles in the bowel relax and are no longer contracting as much, reducing gut motility, meaning transit times of food in your stomach are increased.  As a consequence, you will not be opening your bowels as often and stools may become harder.

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Eating small amounts often rather than big meals can help with the heartburn.  Avoiding spicy foods can also help, although you may have gone off these anyway!  If heartburn is affecting you then your saviour for the next few months will be Gaviscon or Gaviscon Advance.  Both these preparations are perfectly safe for you to take during your pregnancy and actually have the beneficial effect of helping to keep your bowels regular.  (Gaviscon acts as a mild laxative).  Your GP can prescribe Gaviscon for you in 500 ml bottles which you will be able to get for free if you have applied for your Maternity exemption certificate.  (Your GP or Midwife should give you a form which you can send off- this will allow you to pick up any prescriptions free of charge whilst you are pregnant and for one year after the baby’s birth! DO IT!!!) This is really worth doing as a 500ml bottle normally costs about £8.00 and if your heartburn is severe or continuous you will go through a lot of these!  But don’t forget – read the label and follow the dosage instructions.

Another tip to deal with indigestion is to make sure you stay upright after eating.  Slouching on the sofa will not help your digestion, so staying seated at the dining table or even sitting on a yoga/exercise ball after your meal can help.  This can be especially beneficial in the last few weeks of pregnancy when sitting on the sofa may become more uncomfortable and the Yoga Ball may be the only comfortable place to sit!