Pregnant and Took Pepto Bismol: What to Do + Safe Alternatives

Photo of author

Published on

BabyFacts logo

It is no secret that heartburn and nausea can be downright uncomfortable. Even women who have never experienced heartburn before are susceptible to pregnancy-related heartburn and GI upset. 

Pepto Bismol has been a longstanding treatment for these unpleasant symptoms, however, it is not recommended during pregnancy- a fact many women discover only after they’ve taken a dose. What is one to do after accidentally taking Pepto Bismol?

Pepto Bismol (also known by its generic name bismuth subsalicylate) is best avoided during pregnancy, even though none of the ingredients are known to cause immediate harm.

Pepto Bismol does increase the risk of bleeding, but an accidental dose is not likely to be harmful. Do be sure to discuss any previous habitual use with your medical provider. 

Though Pepto Bismol is off the table during pregnancy there is no need to suffer through heartburn and nausea for 9 months. Pregnancy-safe antacid options are plentiful. I will walk you through both what to do if you’ve taken bismuth subsalicylate we well as alternative antacids available. 

I Took Pepto Bismol During Pregnancy: What Should I Do? 

Bubblegum pink and soothing to the stomach, many folks turn to Pepto Bismol or other brands of the medication known as bismuth subsalicylate for relief from heartburn and stomach upset.

Both of these issues are also incredibly common during pregnancy, making Pepto Bismol seem like that natural choice to relieve symptoms. 

pepto bismol chewables in a bottle

Many women are surprised to learn that Pepto Bismol is advised against during pregnancy. The FDA recommends avoiding bismuth subsalicylate, especially after 20-weeks of gestation, as the medication can increase bleeding risks.

Increased risk of bleeding becomes a bigger safety concern as your due date approaches since excess bleeding can lead to complications during delivery (source: American Family Physician).

Hearing this advice can certainly be alarming, especially if you have been using the medication during your pregnancy. Whether you took Pepto Bismol before you knew you were pregnant or took it once (or more often) before realizing it is not advised there is likely no immediate cause for concern. 

While you should be mindful to choose other antacids during pregnancy, keep in mind that none of the ingredients in bismuth subsalicylate are outright harmful to you or your growing baby.

Rather, one of the compounds, subsalicylate, is an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). NSAIDs increase the risk of bleeding, which is why they are best to avoid as your delivery date nears (source: American Family Physician). 

close-up pepto bismol tablets

After taking Pepto Bismol, the first thing (and arguably the most difficult) to do is remember not to panic. Like other substances that are not recommended during pregnancy, taking Pepto Bismol does not guarantee complications. It is likely that both you and your baby will remain safe and healthy. 

If you have taken Pepto Bismol regularly, and especially if you are nearing the end of your pregnancy, have a discussion with your medical provider. They may wish to monitor you a bit more closely during delivery and/or take some bloodwork to determine how much of the medication is in your body. 

Pepto Bismol is also advertised as an over-the-counter treatment for diarrhea. If you are experiencing diarrhea it is best to reach out to your medical provider. Diarrhea is a common symptom of other issues, such as foodborne illness. Diarrhea that is not treated can lead to dehydration. 

Safe Alternatives to Pepto Bismol for Pregnant Women

While Pepto Bismol is a no-go during pregnancy, that doesn’t mean you need to suffer through GI upset and heartburn for 9 months! Many of the other antacids on the market are safe for use while pregnant. The most common (safe) options include:

  • Omeprazole (otherwise known as Prilosec)
  • Calcium carbonate (most commonly known as the brand-name TUMS)
  • Cimetidine 
  • Famotidine (otherwise known as Pepcid)
  • Over-the-counter magnesium hydroxide or magnesium carbonate

If you are experiencing diarrhea, loperamide, which is the active ingredient in Imodium is a safe alternative (source: Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology).

Aside from medications, there are a few other steps you can take to reduce nausea and heartburn. 

  • Eat small, frequent meals 
  • Avoid laying down after eating
  • Limit spicy and greasy foods
  • Lemon, ginger, and mint are all flavors known to fight nausea

Though Pepto Bismol is advised again during pregnancy- and especially later on in pregnancy- taking a dose is likely not going to lead to any serious side effects. Routine use should be discussed with your medical provider, however, there are many other safe options to calm your stomach throughout your pregnancy. 

If you’re struggling with pregnancy-related nausea, heartburn, or gastrointestinal upset you might also be interested in these articles: