Stomach Ulcer When Pregnant

As the name implies, stomach ulcer is an open sore (peptic ulcer ) that develops on the inside lining of the stomach. The good news it is curable, especially if it’s caught and treated early. With comprehensive treatment plan, it’s likely for patient to have a full recovery. But if it develops when you’re pregnant, this could be a bit challenging!

Can you get pregnant with the disease?

Peptic ulcer affects stomach and upper portion of small intestine, and it has nothing to do with your reproductive system. In other words, it should not affect your chance of getting pregnant.

Currently, there is no evidence that this gastrointestinal disease can affect fertility. However, there are probably some secondary factors associated with stomach ulcer that cause an effect on your chance to conceive. For example, some medications for peptic ulcers may affect sperm.

The good news the number of peptic ulcer complications decline, because more cases of the disease are treated early. When the disease has not become advanced, it is relatively easier to treat and less likely to cause its complications.

However the disease may also turn into serious or even be fatal if not treated as well. The possible complications include:

  1. The risk of internal bleeding. It occurs when an ulcer affects a blood vessel. It can be slow-progressive bleeding or severe (rapid) bleeding, leading to anemia, pale skin, lethargy, stool containing blood, or vomiting blood (haematemesis).
  2. Perforation, a rare condition in which the lining of your stomach splitting holey. It is dangerous, because it can pose the risk of serious infection called peritonitis (infection of abdominal cavity).
  3. Obstruction. Scarred stomach ulcer causes inflammation that may affect the passage of food through your digestive tract. As a result you would have vomiting, unintended weight loss, or easy to get full even after eating a smaller-than-normal portion.

Some of these complications can be so harmful for pregnancy.

Although the disease will not affect your fertility, it’s recommended to discuss with your healthcare provider before trying to get pregnant since some adjustments may be required to help deal with. For instance, not all peptic ulcer medicines are safe for women with pregnancy [1].

If the disease gets worse, you may need to delay your pregnancy. Remember, the main goal is to have normal pregnancy and deliver healthy baby!

Effects of stomach ulcer on pregnancy

While stomach ulcer can be healed before you get pregnant, there is a chance for the open sore to come back (including during pregnancy). It’s not fully understood why some women develop it during pregnancy and others don’t. But in general, you may have a higher-than-normal risk to develop the disease in pregnancy if:

  1. You’re an active smoker.
  2. A personal history of having previous peptic ulcer disease.
  3. A heavy drinker (alcoholism).
  4. Sometimes uncontrolled stress may also have an effect.

Fortunately, stomach ulcer during pregnancy is not common. And if the disease does develop when you’re pregnant, some treatments are available to help cope with.

While peptic ulcer doesn’t have a direct effect on your chances to conceive, having the disease when pregnant can be potential to cause a number of negative effects on your pregnancy.

Stomach ulcer symptoms

Pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, back pain, headache, and more can be frustrating enough to ruin your daily life. And if you develop peptic ulcer disease, this can make it harder to cope with.

The symptoms of peptic ulcer may vary from patient to patient. Discomfort burning stomach pain is the most common symptom of the disease. Other symptoms are as follows [2]:

  1. Abdominal bloating.
  2. Fatty food intolerance.
  3. Easy to have feeling of fullness.
  4. Nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite.
  5. Weight loss.
  6. Heartburn (burning sensation in the throat or chest).

Pain due to ulcer often flares up at night. This may affect the quality of your sleep. If you cannot sleep as well, this is bad for your pregnancy and overall health.

The risk of nutrient deficiencies

While getting plenty of nutrients is important when pregnant, eating right is more difficult with ulcer. In fact appetite loss is common in people with ulcer. Pain, bloating, and feeling of fullness – for examples, may affect your appetite.

Tell your doctor if your ulcer has affected your appetite and diet. Prenatal supplements may be prescribed to restore the deficiencies.

If you don’t eat well, this could hurt your baby and pregnancy, leading to poor pregnancy outcomes since you don’t get enough nutrients (malnutrition). If not treated as well, you would have pregnancy complications like postpartum haemorrhage, premature birth, or even the risk of birth defects.

Increased risk of anemia

Internal bleeding caused by ulcer can lead to anemia, a condition in which you have lower than normal of red blood cells to carry enough oxygen to your tissues. This could be much worse if you don’t have adequate intake of iron from your diet. Your dietary iron is required to make special protein in the red blood cells called hemoglobin.

Anemia is bad for pregnancy, because your body needs a higher than normal iron level to accommodate changes of blood volume over the course of pregnancy. If it’s left untreated, you might have increased risk of a premature birth. You’re also more likely to deliver a low-birth weight baby.

Stomach ulcer treatments during pregnancy

Stomach ulcer in the general population should be considered separately from stomach ulcer in pregnancy, why? There are a number of reasons, some are outlined below:

  1. First, pregnancy may alter the natural history and clinical presentation of the disease. For instance, symptoms and complication rate of the disease tend to decrease during pregnancy.
  2. Some tests and procedures to diagnose the disease should be carefully evaluated for pregnant women. Upper gastrointestinal series, for example, are safe in general population – but the radiation teratogenicity can be contraindicated if you’re pregnant.
  3. Not all treatments and therapies used in general population are safe during pregnancy.

Many times, burning stomach pain of the disease takes more attention. Although some over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are available, choose the right one that’s not only effective to ease the symptom but also safe for your pregnancy!

Just because they are available over-the-counter, this doesn’t mean that they are safe for anyone [3]. For examples, the following pain relief medicines for ulcer are not recommended when you’re pregnant:

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