Is it safe to take Gaviscon for pregnancy heartburn?
Are over-the-counter antacid and alginate remedies for heartburn and indigestion, such as Gaviscon, OK when you're pregnant? Expert family GP Dr Philippa Kaye has the answers
Taking Gaviscon in pregnancy is safe but it's worth speaking to your doctor or midwife before you take it – or any other over-the-counter antacid medication – for the first time, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition and/or you are taking any other medication.
The expert GP view
I see many mums-to-be in my surgery suffering with painful heartburn – a form of indigestion that feels like a burning sensation in your chest that's caused by acid flowing back up from your stomach into your throat or mouth (acid reflux). It can also be accompanied by bloating, burping and nausea.
It's caused by pregnancy hormones relaxing the muscles around your stomach, and most common in late pregnancy when your growing baby-to-be is pressing up against your stomach.
Changes to your diet – see Are there any other ways to tackle pregnancy heartburn?, below – can help with heartburn but in pregnancy but there are also lots of indigestion and heartburn remedies, known as antacids, available over the counter at pharmacies. Gaviscon is one of the most well-known of these.
Gaviscon is not known to cause any problems during pregnancy. There are several Gaviscon products available at pharmacies but Gaviscon Advance Liquid or Gaviscon Advance Tablets are the ones that the manufacturer states are specially formulated for pregnant women.
It's important to say, however, that I wouldn't advise taking Gaviscon – or any other indigestion remedy – in pregnancy without first speaking to your doctor, pharmacist or midwife. You should definitely speak to your doctor or midwife if:
- You have ever had an allergic reaction, or know you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the medicine
- You are on a low-salt diet
- You have high levels of calcium in your blood or kidneys
- You are prone to kidney stones
- You have very low levels of stomach acid
- You have phenylketonuria (PKU)
- You are taking any other medication, especially iron supplements.
Does Gaviscon interact with other medications?
It can do. And this is precisely the reason I recommend talking to your doctor or midwife if you are thinking of taking it. Some medications cannot be mixed with Gaviscon; others can be taken if the doses of the 2 meds are spaced apart during the day.
Iron supplements – often prescribed in pregnancy if you become a little anaemic – can interact with Gaviscon. If you have been advised to take an iron supplement, do not take Gaviscon within the 2 hours before or after taking your supplement, to ensure you get the benefit of both medications.
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How does Gaviscon work?
Gaviscon Advance has 2 main ingredients: sodium alginate and potassium hydrogen carbonate.
- The sodium alginate forms a gel-like layer on top of the acid in your stomach. This helps prevent the reflux of stomach acid up your gullet and protects your stomach lining and your oesophagus (your gullet or food tube) from acid attack. It also has a soothing effect and allows healing to occur if you have some reflux oesophagitis – inflammation of your oesophagus from the acid rising up from your stomach.
- The potassium hydrogen carbonate helps neutralise excess acid and protect your stomach from irritation.
According to the manufacturer, Gaviscon Advance has been formulated "to ensure it does not enter your bloodstream", and it also has the lowest sodium content of all the products in their range.
Other Gaviscon products (Gaviscon Original and Gaviscon Double Action) also contain sodium alginate but include sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate instead of potassium hydrogen carbonate.
What about other antacid remedies?
There are other, similar alginate and antacid remedies available over the counter and there is no real difference between Boots or Tesco own brand and Gaviscon.
Most are considered safe to take when you are pregnant (or breastfeeding). Do check this with your pharmacist – and don't forget that you should talk to your doctor or midwife before taking any antacids in pregnancy.
It's worth noting that the NHS website states the antacid products containing sodium bicarbonate or magnesium trisilicate are not recommended in pregnancy
Are there any ways to tackle heartburn without medicines?
Yes, you can try the following, mainly dietary, changes:
- Cutting out spicy food
- Cutting out citrus fruits, juices and other acid-type foods such as pickles
- Decreasing oily food
- Drinking peppermint tea after eating meals
- Drinking milk to neutralise the acid
- Eating smaller meals, little and often
- Eating your main meal at lunchtime, with a smaller dinner
- Watch the number of coffees, teas, chocolates and cola you consume in a day. Pregnant women with heartburn may do better if they decrease even further than the recommended caffeine limit or stop it altogether.
- Prop yourself up on some pillows at bedtime. This can help decrease acid reflux, which can, for many, be worse at night.
What if nothing is working for my pregnancy heartburn?
If over-the-counter antacids don't work, then do check back in with your doctor. There are various prescription medicines for heartburn, which are safe to use in pregnancy, such as ranitidine and omeprazole.
Last reviewed: July 2023. Please note: Dr Philippa does not specifically recommend or endorse any brand of over-the-counter medicine. This advice is not personalised or meant to replace individual advice given to you by your doctor or medical team.
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