Pepto-Bismol during pregnancy: Safety, risks, and alternatives

Pepto-Bismol is an over-the-counter medication used to relieve an upset stomach, heartburn, and diarrhea.

It is usually safe to use when not pregnant. However, many medications can cross the placenta, making them unsafe during pregnancy.

This article will explore the safety and risks of using Pepto-Bismol during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as suggest other drug groups that may help relieve an upset stomach.

Is it safe to use Pepto-Bismol during pregnancy?

While Pepto-Bismol is shown to be safe for most people, scientists cannot say for sure that it is safe during pregnancy.

Pepto-Bismol is a compound called bismuth subsalicylate. This medication has several effects:

  • It is an anti-inflammatory that reduces inflammation of the stomach lining, which may help to relieve an upset stomach.
  • It slows the movement of the stomach, which can help reduce cramping and discomfort associated with diarrhea.
  • It reduces acid in a person’s stomach and coats the throat, which can help relieve mild heartburn.

There is little evidence that Pepto-Bismol causes harmful side effects during pregnancy, though there is little research to say that it is safe either.

The main concern around taking any medication during pregnancy is the absence of research on safety. This shortcoming is because it is not ethical to perform drug tests on women who are pregnant due to the possible risks to the woman and baby.

Pepto-Bismol may not be safe to use during pregnancy because, as with aspirin, it is a salicylate. This group of medications is anti-inflammatory and known to have effects related to bleeding.

For this reason, many doctors restrict the use of Pepto-Bismol during the third trimester, as they want to reduce any bleeding risks during delivery.

Also, birth abnormalities that impact a developing baby’s heart are known to be the result of salicylates. Experts have not reported these complications with Pepto-Bismol but have seen them with aspirin and similar drugs.

Birth abnormalities from salicylates are more common when people take them for a long time, or when they take more than the recommended amount.

People may prefer to avoid Pepto-Bismol during pregnancy as several alternative medications have proven to treat the same problem.

Many people experience an upset stomach, heartburn, or diarrhea during pregnancy. Persistent diarrhea can interfere with a person’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, which may affect the developing baby.

Certain medications may be safe to use while pregnant, as long as a person does so under a doctor’s care and instructions. Medicines that may be safe can include specific antacids, acid reducers, and proton-pump inhibitors.

It is essential for people to remember that recommendations about various medications are subject to change based on new research, including the information given here.

Due to the ever-changing picture, people should always talk to their doctor before taking any medication while pregnant.

Lifestyle changes

Doctors may recommend a combination of medications and lifestyle changes to reduce the symptoms a person is experiencing.

Lifestyle modifications to reduce upset stomach, nausea, and heartburn can include:

  • eating several small meals a day instead of large meals
  • not eating for 3 hours before bed
  • avoiding foods that trigger upset stomach symptoms, such as spicy foods or caffeinated beverages
  • elevating the head of the bed with pillows or a foam wedge when resting or sleeping
  • choosing bland foods that help upset stomachs, such as ginger ale or plain crackers

It is also essential for people to stay hydrated if they experience diarrhea. Drinking clear liquids and eating a bland diet can usually help while diarrhea resolves.

If diarrhea persists beyond a few days, people should contact a doctor for possible prescription medications and treatments.


Pepto-Bismol is not a well-researched medication in regard to safety during pregnancy. As a result, people may wish to avoid this drug when they are pregnant and breastfeeding.

If someone has concerns about taking any medication during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, they should talk to their doctor.

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