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.

A population-based longitudinal survey conducted by multiple institutions revealed a notable decrease in the overall prevalence of H. pylori infection from 11% to 9% between 2009 and 2018. This decline coincided with a parallel reduction in the proportion of H. pylori-positive gastric ulcers from 17% to 14% and H. pylori-positive duodenal ulcers from 25% to 21%.

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.

In This Article

Understanding Stomach Ulcers

Nausea and vomiting may cause stomach ulcers during pregnancy
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A stomach ulcer, also known as gastric 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)iXA digestive disorder that occurs when Stomach acid flows back to the esophagus
  3. Irritable bowel syndrome
  4. Constipation

Nausea, vomiting, and symptomatic GERD or acid reflux are common pregnancy symptoms. However, stomach ulcer disease occurs less frequently in pregnant women.

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Pregnant women may have some degree of protection from peptic ulcer disease due to decreased gastric acid output and enhanced protective mucus production caused by the increasing progesteroneiXA reproductive hormone secreted by the corpus luteum and placenta (during pregnancy) to prepare the uterus for pregnancy levels (8).

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)iXMedicines used for treatment of pain, swelling, and fever 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

    Heartburn is a symptom of stomach ulcers during pregnancy
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  1. Severe pain in the middle or upper part of the abdomen
  1. Dark or black coloured stools due to bleeding.
  1. Weight loss
  2. Indigestion

In situations where you are experiencing sharp pain in your tummy or vomiting blood, please visit your general practitioner as this could be a serious complication, such as internal or gastrointestinal bleeding (1).

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?

Use antacids safe for pregnancy to manage the symptoms
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If you are diagnosed with stomach ulcers during pregnancy, your doctor may prescribe antacidsiXA substance that neutralizes the acid present in the stomach , 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).

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Omeprazole may be prescribed for treating stomach ulcers during pregnancy and preventing their related complications without any noticeable side effects (9).

How Can Stomach Ulcer Be Prevented During Pregnancy?

1. Avoid certain foods

Eating fried food during pregnancy may lead to stomach ulcers
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If you are experiencing stomach ulcer during pregnancy, avoid foods that may aggravate the disorder, such as the following (7):

  • Fried foods
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Citrus fruits
  • Sodas

You may consult your OB/GYN for alternatives to curb your cravings for fast food or something sour.

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

Avoid smoking and alcohol during pregnancy
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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).

3. Can stress during pregnancy contribute to the development of stomach ulcers?

While stress does not directly cause stomach ulcers, it might be a triggering factor since the body’s innate response to stress can elevate stomach acid production, contributing to ulcer formation. In addition, some people may use NSAIDs and alcohol to combat stress, both of which are recognized as factors that contribute to the development of stomach ulcers (9).

4. Can stomach ulcers during pregnancy cause preterm labor or other complications?

A study reported that stomach ulcers during pregnancy may increase the risk of preterm birth and other complications such as babies born small for the gestational age and low birth weight babies (10).

5. Can stomach ulcers during pregnancy cause long-term health problems?

Stomach ulcers are usually treatable; but rarely they may lead to serious complications such as internal bleeding, perforation, and gastrointestinal obstruction (11) (6).

A stomach ulcer 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.

Infographic: Symptoms Of Stomach Ulcer During Pregnancy

Expecting mothers might experience gastrointestinal issues such as peptic ulcer disease. Since it causes significant discomfort, it is best to get evaluated to avoid complications. So, scour through this infographic to understand the possible indications of stomach ulcers when pregnant.

possible signs of stomach ulcers while pregnant (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

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Key Pointers

  • Peptic ulcers are common during pregnancy and can cause abdominal pain and discomfort.
  • The common cause of peptic ulcers during pregnancy is infections.
  • Diet and lifestyle changes can help minimize symptoms of peptic ulcers during pregnancy.
  • Treatment options for peptic ulcers during pregnancy include antacids that do not contain bicarbonate.
stomach ulcer during pregnancy_illustration

Image: Dall·E/MomJunction Design Team

Discover the causes of heartburn during pregnancy, ways to manage it and other expert tips via this informative video.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Overview: Stomach ulcer.
  2. Gastrointestinal Issues During Pregnancy.,gallstones%2C%20diarrhea%2C%20and%20constipation
  3. Peptic Ulcer Disease.
  4. Peptic Ulcer Disease.
  5. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) During Pregnancy,carbonate%20(such%20as%20Tums)
  6. Mitchell S. Cappell; (2003); Gastric and duodenal ulcers during pregnancy.
  7. What are the best foods to eat with a stomach ulcer?
  8. P A Michaletz-Onody; (1992); Peptic ulcer disease in pregnancy.
  9. Can stress cause stomach ulcers?
  10. Yi- Hua Chen phD et al; (2010); Increased risk of low birthweight, infants small for gestational age, and preterm delivery for women with peptic ulcer.
  11. Stomach ulcer- complications.
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