Stomach pain after meals is pretty common in pregnant women. Your body is going through considerable changes and has to adjust to accommodate the new little life growing inside your belly. Indigestion and heartburn, hormonal shifts, constipation, round ligament pain, an ectopic pregnancy, preeclampsia, and your food cravings can be one of the several reasons why you’re having stomach pain after eating.
These stomach pains are primarily associated with indigestion and heartburn, but they could be related to more severe issues that require medical attention.
We’ll go through the different possible reasons for stomach aches after a meal and also look at what to do and when to seek medical help.
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Indigestion and heartburn
Indigestion, also called dyspepsia, is one of the more common causes of stomach aches in pregnant women. About 8 out of 10 women will experience stomach pain at some time during their pregnancy.
The sensation in your stomach can be both painful and uncomfortable, but mild cases can be easily treated, and there are ways to try and prevent unnecessary stomach aches.
Here are some causes of indigestion and heartburn in pregnant women:
- Eating too much at mealtimes
- Too many high-fat foods
- Eating just before you go to bed
- Eating and drinking at the same time will make you fuller
- Eating chocolate or peppermint
- Drinking fruit juice or caffeinated beverages
- Exercising too soon after a meal
- Bending over too much
- Lying down directly after a meal
As you can see, many of the causes are food-related.
With changes in your lifestyle and diet, you can control or reduce your chances of suffering from indigestion and heartburn. Ask your doctor about antacids for indigestion and heartburn.
If you still suffer from indigestion and heartburn after changing your diet and lifestyle, then speak to your doctor about the medication you can take that won’t harm your baby.
Indigestion in your first trimester is usually a reaction to the changing hormone levels in your body. However, it is more common in the second or third trimesters because of competition for space with your baby pushing up against your stomach.
Here is a list of indigestion symptoms:
Heartburn can be very uncomfortable and painful as well. It is when stomach acid seeps up into the esophagus and irritates the lining, which causes discomfort.
In a sleep position study, researchers found that sleeping on your left side is the best sleep position to reduce heartburn because the position where your esophagus meets your stomach is elevated the most.
Sleeping on your right side, back, or stomach will aggravate heartburn and reflux.
A natural remedy for heartburn is saliva. If you have heartburn, try chewing gum, as the chewing action produces a lot of salivae that you continuously swallow.
Your saliva helps to neutralize the acid build-up in your esophagus.
In the early part of your pregnancy, hormone changes are most obvious in the emotional swings you’ll experience and that wonderful glow of your skin. But your body is going through significant changes on the inside.
Apparent changes in your outer appearance occur later in your pregnancy when your belly starts showing, your breasts get slightly bigger, and your feet may swell up from time to time.
Your hormones are hard at work from the beginning of your pregnancy, ensuring your baby is taken care of. What a wonderful world this is!
One of the hormones responsible for fertility and menstruation is called progesterone. If a woman doesn’t get pregnant, the hormone level goes down and initiates menstruation, while pregnancy will increase progesterone levels.
The increase in progesterone will stop your body from producing more eggs, and it helps to prepare your breasts to start producing milk, but it also slows down digestion to assist in nurturing your baby.
With your digestion slowed down, you may experience discomfort caused by indigestion, gas, overfullness, possible nausea (morning sickness), or pain in your upper abdomen. All these sensations are expected, and you can minimize the impact of many of the symptoms.
For example, instead of three large meals a day, try breaking it down to six smaller meals spaced throughout the day.
The iron in prenatal vitamins can cause constipation during pregnancy that may lead to stomach aches.
To try and prevent constipation and have regular bowel movements, you will need to stay hydrated. Therefore, you should increase your water intake to an average of at least 8 glasses a day.
Another way to prevent constipation is to change your diet to a high fiber diet which will help. If you still do not have regular bowel movements, you may want to use a stool softener but ask your doctor first.
Round ligament pain
This pain is caused by your body stretching to accommodate your growing baby.
The pain sensation will be in the ligaments on the sides of your abdomen that move to your vaginal area.
It generally occurs in the second trimester, and usually, the pain subsides on its own. However, you may want to try a pregnancy belly band for support.
Some moms-to-be have said they experienced round ligament pain in their first trimester, which is plausible because women are built differently. They respond differently to the changes their body goes through during pregnancy.
Although eating may not trigger the pain associated with an ectopic pregnancy, it still falls under abdominal pain and deserves mention. An ectopic pregnancy is a severe condition and can be extremely painful.
This occurs when a fertilized egg grows in the fallopian tube outside the uterus. You will feel a sudden pain in your lower abdomen and pelvic area. You may feel weak and light-headed as well.
If your home pregnancy test was positive, but you haven’t yet had a proper exam to confirm your pregnancy, then it’s best to seek medical attention right away.
Preeclampsia symptoms include stomach pains, and some mothers may confuse this with indigestion pains.
Preeclampsia occurs typically after the 20th week of pregnancy and is associated with first-time pregnancies, a history of high blood pressure, and women over 40.
Other symptoms include changes in your vision, facial swelling, and headaches. If you have any of these symptoms and stomach and shoulder pains, it’s best to consult your doctor urgently.
During your pregnancy, your body goes through hormonal changes that affect each mom-to-be differently. These hormonal changes may trigger food cravings.
Some pregnant moms will suddenly get cravings for things they would hardly ever or never eat. These food items that pregnant women crave and binge on can contribute to indigestion and stomach pains.
Try to avoid binge eating and overcome the urge to eat food and snacks that you know will cause indigestion and heartburn.
You may think it will be fine if you nibble on a small block of chocolate, but you will be setting yourself up for failure as you will be tempted to eat the whole slab, and you might do this without even realizing it. So it’s best not to put yourself into temptations way.
Are stomach cramps a concern during pregnancy?
Some pregnant women think that stomach cramps or pain are a sign of a miscarriage, but pregnancy pains are normal, and if the pain is mild, it will most likely go away by simply moving a little.
However, if the cramps persist and become more frequent and painful, it’s best to see your doctor. Read this article to find out more.
When should I seek medical help for pregnancy-related stomach pains?
If the pain or cramping is severe and persistent, or if the pain is sudden and extreme, you should seek urgent medical help.
What can I use to clear up an upset stomach during pregnancy?
You can drink beverages that contain lemon soda electrolytes, which will not harm your baby. However, you may want to keep a record of what you’re eating and drinking so you can try and pinpoint the cause through a process of elimination.
Pregnancy is never a pain-free experience, but it is a unique life journey that women are gifted with. Pain is sadly a part of this beautiful lifegiving journey, and every pregnancy has different experiences.
Eating is essential, but your body changes can cause pain after you have enjoyed a nice meal. Knowing what to eat and what to avoid during pregnancy will help to limit some of the pain and discomfort. Look at changing aspects of your lifestyle and diet that will benefit both you and your unborn baby.
Unfortunately, some pregnancy pains can be severe, so do not hesitate to seek medical assistance. Every mother ultimately relies on her gut feelings or intuition. If you are concerned, call your doctor or midwife for advice.