Stomach Ulcer During Pregnancy - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments

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A stomach ulcer during pregnancy is an uncommon and unpleasant condition that causes a burning sensation and discomfort in the stomach. It could further lead to bouts of vomiting and nausea, which may compel you to visit your doctor.

If you are concerned that you have the signs of a peptic or stomach ulcer, consult a doctor. This condition is treatable with specific antacids that are safe for consumption during pregnancy.

Read on as we discuss the possible causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of stomach/peptic ulcers.

Understanding Stomach Ulcers

A stomach ulcer occurs when the mucus lining of the intestine or stomach erodes. The erosion affects the stomach acids and damages the stomach walls (1). Apart from stomach ulcers, certain other disorders related to the digestive system are also common during pregnancy.

The most common gastrointestinal issues during pregnancy are as follows (2):

  1. Vomiting and nausea
  2. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  3. Irritable bowel syndrome
  4. Constipation

Nausea and vomiting are common pregnancy symptoms, and symptomatic GERD is common in expectant mothers. However, stomach ulcer disease occurs less frequently in pregnant women.

What Are The Causes Of Stomach Ulcer During Pregnancy?

Stomach ulcers usually occur due to an imbalance in the digestive juices in the stomach, which protect the stomach lining. This imbalance can be caused by a bacterial infection due to Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) or regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin and ibuprofen (3).

Symptoms Of Stomach Ulcer During Pregnancy

Here are some of the symptoms of stomach ulcers in pregnancy (3):

  1. Nausea and vomiting
  1. Bloating
  1. Heartburn
  1. Severe pain in the middle or upper part of the abdomen
  1. Dark or black coloured stools due to bleeding.
  1. Weight loss

How Is Stomach Ulcer Diagnosed During Pregnancy?

Stomach ulcers are typically diagnosed with an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) or upper endoscopy. In this procedure, a tube is inserted through the mouth to inspect the stomach. This is the preferred method for diagnosing stomach ulcers since it can also detect small ulcers (4).

How Is Stomach Ulcer Treated During Pregnancy?

If you are diagnosed with stomach ulcers during pregnancy, your doctor may prescribe antacids, as they are considered safe during pregnancy. However, doctors do not prescribe antacids containing bicarbonate since they can cause fluid buildup (5). Rather, your doctor may prescribe antacids containing magnesium or aluminum in normal doses (6).

How Can Stomach Ulcer Be Prevented During Pregnancy?

1. Avoid certain foods

If you are experiencing stomach ulcer during pregnancy, avoid foods that aggravate the disorder, such as the following (7):

  • Fried foods
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Citrus fruits
  • Sodas

2. Medication

Avoid consuming NSAIDS regularly or in high doses as they can damage the stomach lining and cause ulcers (1).

3. Avoid Alcohol

Consuming alcohol is harmful to your growing baby. Further, if you have stomach ulcers, it is necessary to avoid alcohol consumption as it will further deteriorate your digestive system (3).

3. Quit smoking

Smoking is harmful to your lungs as well as for your developing fetus if you are pregnant. Also, if you are suffering from Peptic ulcer disease during pregnancy, then quit smoking or else it might lead to nasty complications and affect your unborn baby.

Smoking is harmful to your lungs and your developing fetus. Also, if you have stomach ulcers, smoking may cause complications that may affect your unborn baby (3).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can pregnancy worsen stomach ulcers?

There is not much known about this. On the contrary, a few studies suggest that the frequency of complications and symptoms of stomach ulcers might decrease in pregnancy which could be associated with the protective mucus production (due to an increase in progesterone hormone) during pregnancy (6) (8).

2. What happens if you have an ulcer while pregnant?

Ulcers such as stomach ulcers, although rare, might cause a considerable amount of pain and discomfort to the expectant mother. Nonetheless, it is crucial to avoid exposure to possible triggers and visit a doctor if you have a history of ulcer diseases to achieve a timely diagnosis and prompt treatment to prevent the risk of further complications (8).

Stomach ulcers during pregnancy may primarily emerge due to a bacterial infection or long-term use of NSAIDs. Though the condition is manageable by specific antacids that are safe to be used in pregnancy, you might experience abdominal discomfort due to stomach ulcers. Consult your doctor if you have symptoms of stomach ulcers for appropriate treatment interventions to relieve your discomfort. Nevertheless, following specific preventive measures such as avoiding spicy, fried foods, overuse of unprescribed medications, and staying away from smoking and alcohol may help alleviate the condition and its subsequent adverse effects.

References:

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Dr. Michael Tahery

(MD)
Dr. Michael Tahery is an American board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist practicing in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He graduated in ob/gyn from the University of New York and Advanced Pelvic Surgery and Urogynecology from The Mayo Clinic.    Dr. Tahery is a member of the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, American Urogynecology Society, and American Urology Association. Before... more

shreeja pillai

Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. As a writer, she aims at providing informative articles on health and pharma, especially related to... more

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