Generally speaking, antacids are safe for use during pregnancy. A woman can usually obtain safe products over the counter or ask her doctor for a prescription for severe or persistent symptoms. Usually, pregnant women are advised to avoid antacid preparations that contain additional medications that might harm a developing baby. Likewise, it is important for a pregnant women to follow the dosage information on a product label when using antacids in pregnancy.
Many women experience heartburn during pregnancy. Heartburn is marked by a sensation of burning that affects the chest and throat as the result of stomach acids moving into the esophagus. The burning sensations can make continuing everyday activities and sleeping difficult, so pregnant women often seek help in the form of Over-The-Counter (OTC) antacids. Among those considered safe during pregnancy are those with active ingredients like calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, or magnesium oxide. Products containing these ingredients are often available in chewable or liquid form.
Antacids that contain sodium bicarbonate are not necessarily unsafe for use while expecting. In fact, some women consume sodium bicarbonate, also referred to as baking soda, mixed with water as a home remedy for heartburn. These preparations contain significant amounts of sodium, however, which can cause a woman to retain fluid and experience related swelling. For instance, a woman might note swelling of her fingers or ankles when she’s using sodium bicarbonate antacids in pregnancy. As such, some doctors do not recommend it.
Before using antacids in pregnancy, a woman may do well to carefully review the other active ingredients in a preparation. Some contain aspirin, which a woman is usually advised to avoid during pregnancy. Others include aluminum, which can have adverse effects when taken in high doses. For example, taking too much of an antacid that contains aluminum can lead to constipation. In extreme cases, it might even prove toxic.
Sometimes using OTC antacids in pregnancy isn't as effective as a woman might hope, and severe symptoms may warrant a doctor's help. In many cases, a doctor will prescribe a type of acid reducer called an H2 blocker or a proton pump inhibitor. H2 blockers interfere with the release of a chemical called histamine, which plays a role in stomach acid production. Proton pump inhibitors lower the amount of acid in the stomach by interfering with the pump that produces the acid. Though medications are not known to be harmful to unborn babies, doctors often choose to be cautious, prescribing them in only the most serious cases.