Pregnancy is commonly accompanied by complaints of heartburn and acidity because of changes in the digestive system. Therefore, women are curious whether it is safe to take an antacid during pregnancy.
The digestive system is affected during pregnancy because of hormonal changes, enhanced blood flow, and the pressure of the growing fetus. Antacids help manage digestion and acidity by restoring the balance of stomach acids.
However, since all antacids are not safe for pregnant women, consult a doctor before taking them. Moreover, taking antacids in excess may hamper your and your baby’s health. Therefore, it is advisable to explore natural remedies to relieve your digestive issues during pregnancy.
This post elaborates on whether it is safe to take antacids during pregnancy, their functions in the body, their side effects, and some natural alternatives.
How Do Antacids Work?
The stomach generates acids to break down the food into digestible substances that are absorbed by the intestines. But an imbalance in the production of stomach acids could cause heartburn and acidity. Antacids help control the production of excess stomach acids and restore the balance thus giving you relief from sour stomach, indigestion, heartburn, and tummy upset.
They also help treat stomach pain, duodenal ulcers and reduce gas (1).
Is It Safe To Take Antacids During Pregnancy?
It depends on the type of antacid you take. While some are considered safe, some others are not recommended. The safe antacids during pregnancy are:
- Those containing aluminum salts.
- Antacids with calcium carbonate (2) and those having magnesium oxide or magnesium hydroxide (3). They neutralize stomach acids and help relieve pain and discomfort.
- Syrups are preferred to tablets as they quickly dissolve and give instant relief.
In severe cases, your doctor may additionally prescribe acid blockers or H2 blockers that reduce the acid production in your stomach.
Check with your healthcare provider before taking the medication as some might interfere with other medicines. Also, you should be taking them only occasionally (4).
What Happens If You Take Too Many Antacids During Pregnancy?
Anything you take in excess is harmful, and so is the case with antacids too. Overconsumption or overuse of antacids can have various effects such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation, a change in bowel movements, vomiting and anemia.
Unsafe antacids during pregnancy include:
- Antacids containing calcium; they could cause constipation and kidney stones (5).
- Sodium bicarbonate and sodium citrate; they contain higher levels of sodium, causing water retention (7)
- Those having magnesium trisilicate as it could lead to diarrhea and muscular contractions (8).
Just as any other medicines, antacids should also be used only if they are really necessary because they might have some side effects.
Reasons To Avoid Antacids During Pregnancy
Though not serious or rampant, antacids could lead to the below problems during pregnancy.
- Water retention: As mentioned earlier, antacids contain sodium bicarbonate or sodium citrate that retains water in the body. It could lead to swelling of the feet, hands, and ankles. If you already have swelling in the later part of your pregnancy, then this makes the problem worse (7).
- Kidney stones: If you take calcium antacids regularly, the excess calcium cannot be absorbed by the body and hence passes into the bladder, causing kidney stones (9).
- Food sensitivity or intolerance: When you take antacids, food may not be broken completely and could leave the proteins undigested. This could trigger the immune system and turn the proteins into allergens, leading to food intolerances (10).
- Alters iron absorption: Calcium in antacids can interfere with iron absorption (11). Therefore, if you are taking antacids regularly, then you need to take the iron supplements after a gap. If you take both together, it could hinder the absorption of iron and lead to iron deficiency.
- Overly alkaline: Constant intake of antacids could make the body tissues alkaline. It provides the ideal environment for the formation of kidney stones.
An antacid is not the only remedy for heartburn and acidity. You may try some safe natural remedies too.
Natural Alternatives To Antacids
Natural measures could help treat and prevent indigestion and heartburn effectively. Here are some alternatives you may try:
- Take probiotics in your diet. The good bacteria will outnumber the harmful bacteria in your gut and aid in digestion (12). Some of the probiotics are:
- Skimmed milk, yogurt, and soft cheeses
- Fermented vegetables including sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and miso (produced from fermented soybeans)
- Apple cider vinegar (13). Drizzle a few drops over a salad or mix a couple of drops in a glass of water.
- Chamomile tea is known to have an anti-inflammatory effect on your stomach and reduce indigestion and heartburn.
- You may eat raw ginger or brew a tea or add to stir-fries. Its antiemetic properties prevent nausea and vomiting, and also stop acids from getting back into the esophagus.
- Slippery elm is also known to treat heartburn.
- Other foods that offer relief include herbal teas and almonds (14).
In addition to using natural remedies, you may take some care while eating food:
- Eat smaller portions at short intervals rather than large meals, and eat slowly.
- Avoid foods such as tea, coffee, citrus, chocolate, spicy and fatty foods, that could cause indigestion.
- Do not eat just before bedtime. Eat at least two hours before sleep for the food to digest.
- Prop your head with extra pillows while lying down. Keeping your head and shoulders higher than your tummy will relieve heartburn.
You may avoid consuming any OTC drugs, including antacids, for general safe practice without your doctor’s consent. However, excessive consumption of antacids during pregnancy may cause several ill effects. Some natural remedies to prevent acidity during pregnancy are avoiding spicy foods, including a probiotic-rich diet in food, sipping on chamomile tea, etc. In addition, do not hesitate to ask your gynecologist about tips on managing acid reflux, safe antacids, and the prescribed dosage.
2. Calcium Carbonate; NIH (2010)
3. Magnesium hydroxide; National Center for Biotechnology Information; NIH
4. Juan C Vazquez; Heartburn in pregnancy; BMJ Clin Evid (2015)
5. Taking antacids; NIH (2010)
6. Aspirin; NIH (2011)
7. Tribhuvan Patel et al.; Antacids: Heart burn OTC drugs; PharmaTutor Magazine
8. Wienbeck M t al.; Effect of antacids on intestinal motility; Z Gastroenterol (1983)
9. Calcium; Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University
10. Eva Untersmayr et al.; Antacid medication inhibits digestion of dietary proteins and causes food allergy; The Journal Of Allergy And Clinical Immunology
11. Antacids; Winchester Hospital
12. Sharon Green; Considering probiotics; Women’s Health Research Institute
13. Marcelo Campos; Apple cider vinegar… for heartburn; Harvard Health Publishing (2018)
14. Herbal remedies for heartburn; Harvard Health Publishing