Pregnancy and heartburn are quite the iconic pairing. For this reason, Tums (scientifically known as calcium carbonate) can be an expecting mother’s best friend, helping to settle the stomach and stop reflux symptoms.
When dosed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, Tums are both safe and effective when pregnant. Tums are an effective way to take control over pregnancy-related heartburn and reflux.
As a medication, Tums can interact with certain nutrients in the body. Read on to learn how Tums can affect nutrient absorption, how to get around this, and even what to do if you are still feeling heartburn have maxed out on Tums for the day.
Can Pregnant Women Take Tums? Are They Safe?
Pregnancy and preparing to welcome a new addition into your life comes with many changes. For nearly half of all pregnant women, this includes heartburn and a newfound appreciation for antacids such as Tums.
Tums are only one brand name for fruity-yet-chalky calcium carbonate tablets that are available in a variety of strengths and versions.
Note: For the purposes of this article, I will refer to all of them simply as ‘Tums.’ Other antacid brands with the same ingredients can be treated the same way, for the purposes of pregnancy safety.
The main ingredients in original-style Tums are corn starch, calcium carbonate, coloring, flavoring, mineral oil, sodium phosphate, sugar/sweetener, and talc. For those who don’t enjoy the chalky sensation of traditional Tums, the brand does produce chews, too.
Chewy Tums have a few more ingredients to give them their signature texture (source: TUMS). All of these ingredients are safe to use when pregnant, and Tums as a whole are no different (source: American Pregnancy Association).
The main difference between all of the different products? The amount of the active heartburn-relieving ingredient, calcium carbonate. Tums 750 contains 750 mg of calcium carbonate, Tums 1000 contains 1000 mg of calcium carbonate, and so on.
How Many Tums Can I Take When Pregnant?
There is no question that calcium is an important nutrient for bone health, both in mom and baby. Since Tums is made from calcium, any Tums you take will count toward the 1,300 mg daily recommended amount of calcium (source: NIH).
There is an upper limit of how much calcium per day is safe, however. It is best not to exceed 2500 mg of calcium per day (source: Mayo Clinic).
The maximum number of Tums that you can take per day depends on the strength of the product. Original-style Tums are 40% calcium. There is an easy way to figure out how much calcium is in each tablet.
- Take the strength of the Tums (ex: Tums 750)
- Multiply this number by 0.4 (ex: 750 x 0.4)
For example, say you took 1 Tums 500 tablet. Take 500 x 0.4 = 200 mg calcium
Do keep in mind, you are likely also getting some calcium from your diet, so it is best not to meet the 2,500 mg upper limit from Tums alone. To help you dose Tums, the brand offers a helpful pregnancy dosage guide on their website. You can find it here.
While there is a maximum as to how many Tums are safe to take each day, the tablets are still safe to use on a regular basis. If you have specific questions regarding how many Tums are safe for you and your baby, be sure to reach out to your medical provider or pharmacist for individualized advice.
It is also worth mentioning that taking Tums right before eating can block the proper absorption of other essential nutrients, such as iron and phosphorus.
What if I Think I’ve Had Too Many Tums?
Though safe to use while pregnant, taking too many Tums is certainly a possibility. After all, pregnancy heartburn can be very intense and it’s easy to lose track.
While overdoing it on Tums isn’t likely to cause any immediate and serious harm, it is best to keep tabs on your body. Excess calcium can lead to kidney stones, GI upset, and in severe cases alterations in heart rhythm or fainting (source: Mayo Clinic).
If you notice any unusual symptoms, give your medical provider a call and discuss the amount of Tums you’ve taken, including your best estimate of how many Tums you have had.
Can Too Many Tums Harm My Baby?
High blood levels of calcium, known as hypercalcemia, are possible from taking an excessive amount of Tums. Maternal hypercalcemia can lead to restrictions in how much the fetus is able to grow in utero, as well as how the parathyroid gland is developed (source: Clinical Management of Endocrine Diseases).
While these effects are possible, rest assured that this is most often seen when the mother has a diagnosed medical condition that affects her ability to regulate blood calcium levels. Currently, there have not been any reports of such complications from taking Tums.
Can I Take Pepcid and Tums Together During Pregnancy?
Sometimes Tums just are not enough to eliminate acid reflux or heartburn. Pepcid, the brand name for famotidine, is another common over-the-counter heartburn relief medication. Pepcid belongs to the H2-blocker drug class, meaning that it works to reduce reflux by reducing the amount of acid produced by the stomach.
Tums works differently than Pepcid. Instead of decreasing the amount of acid produced by the stomach, Tums neutralizes the acid already present in the stomach (source: TUMS). Because these two medications work differently, it is safe to use them at the same time (source: Michigan Medicine).
What Can I Take for Pregnancy Heartburn BESIDES Tums?
Women often wonder if there is anything they can do to prevent or minimize the chances of the unpleasant experience of heartburn during pregnancy. Luckily for expecting mothers, there are a number of small lifestyle modifications that can help.
- Remain upright after eating: Sitting up or standing lets gravity do some of the heavy lifting to keep reflux at bay. If you need to lay down, try propping your torso and head up with some pillows.
- Eat smaller meals: Smaller meals digest more quickly, lowering the likelihood of heartburn and reflux.
- Limit spicy and acidic foods: While this might be a tough sell for anyone with pregnancy cravings for acidic foods like citrus, tomatoes, or chocolate, it should come as no surprise that acidic foods can aggravate the stomach.
- Limit greasy/fried foods: Similar to acidic foods, greasy and heavily fried foods can also cause GI upset. The fat content in these foods can also slow digestion, which can cause reflux symptoms.
Tums also isn’t the only brand on the market. Other popular brands that offer calcium carbonate antacids include Mylanta, Alka-Seltzer, and even store/generic brands. Pepto-Bismol and Maalox are also antacids, though use different active ingredients.
Tums works quickly to soothe the stomach and stop heartburn, which is especially common during pregnancy. Though it is possible to take too many Tums, hopefully after reading this article you feel comfortable knowing how to determine exactly how much calcium is in your Tums and how much is safe for you and your baby.
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