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

Nausea and vomiting may cause stomach ulcers during pregnancy

Image: iStock

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.

Research finds
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 progesterone 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) 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

    Image: iStock

  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?

Use antacids safe for pregnancy to manage the symptoms

Image: iStock

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).

Quick fact
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

Image: Shutterstock

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

Avoid smoking and alcohol during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

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.

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


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.
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