Is It Safe to Use Pepto-Bismol During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding?

Medically reviewed by Mohamed Jalloh, PharmD on July 13, 2016Written by University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group on July 13, 2016

Introduction

Diarrhea, nausea, heartburn are unpleasant. Pepto-Bismol can be used to help relieve these and other digestive problems, including upset stomach, gas, and feeling overly full after eating.

If you’re pregnant, chances are you’re all too familiar with these types of digestive upset. You may wonder if you can use Pepto-Bismol to help relieve your discomfort safely. Here’s what research has to say about using “the pink stuff” during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Is Pepto-Bismol safe to take during pregnancy?

This is a tricky question without a crystal-clear answer. Even though Pepto-Bismol is an over-the-counter drug, it’s still important to question its safety. The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests that you avoid taking Pepto-Bismol during the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy. This is because it raises your risk of bleeding problems when you take it closer to delivery. However, it’s likely safe to take the drug during the first trimester of pregnancy. That said, even during the first trimester, it’s probably best to use Pepto-Bismol as few times as possible.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind about using Pepto-Bismol during pregnancy:

Long-term use

The active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol is a type of drug called a salicylate. The risk of problems from salicylates is thought to be small. However, there have been reports that long-term use of these drugs by mothers can cause serious harmful effects on a pregnancy.

Pregnancy category

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not assigned a pregnancy category to Pepto-Bismol. This means that it isn’t known for sure if Pepto-Bismol is safe for use in pregnant women.

Birth defects

The Collaborative Perinatal Project researched the effects of drug exposure on pregnancy. It did not find any evidence that Pepto-Bismol is linked with birth defects.

Confused yet? The best thing for you to do is to take all of this information and talk with your doctor about it. Your doctor can tell you more about the risks and benefits of using Pepto-Bismol during pregnancy. They can also help determine if taking Pepto-Bismol is a good option for you and your pregnancy in particular.

If you and your doctor decide that Pepto-Bismol is safe for the first half of your pregnancy, follow the package dosage instructions. Be sure to take no more than the recommended dosage, and try to take the smallest amount that you can.

Is Pepto-Bismol safe to take while breastfeeding?

Similar to pregnancy, the safety of Pepto-Bismol during breastfeeding is a bit unclear. It isn’t known if Pepto-Bismol passes into breast milk. However, it is known that other types of salicylates pass into breast milk and may have harmful effects on a breastfeeding child. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests using caution with salicylates such as Pepto-Bismol while breastfeeding. And the National Institutes of Health suggests finding an alternative to Pepto-Bismol altogether.

It’s best to talk with your doctor about whether or not Pepto-Bismol is safe for you while breastfeeding.

Alternatives to Pepto-Bismol

To be on the safe side, you can always talk with your doctor about other options to treat your digestive problems while pregnant or breastfeeding. Your doctor may suggest other medications or natural remedies. These options may include the following.

For diarrhea

  • Loperamide (Imodium)

Learn more: Remedies for diarrhea during pregnancy »

For acid reflux or heartburn

  • cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • famtidine (Pepcid)
  • nizatidine (Axid)
  • omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • ranitidine (Zantac)

Read more: How to stop heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD during pregnancy »

For nausea

Your doctor may suggest natural remedies for nausea or upset stomach. These options may include ginger, peppermint tea, or pyridoxine, also known as vitamin B-6. You might also try anti-nausea bands that you wear on your wrists. Your doctor can tell you more.

Learn more: 14 recipes to ease morning sickness »

Talk with your doctor

Talking with your doctor is always your best option if you have concerns about taking any medication while pregnant or breastfeeding, including Pepto-Bismol. Be sure to ask any questions you have, such as:

  • Is it safe to take an over-the-counter medication while I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
  • How long and how often can I take medication?
  • What should I do if my digestive symptoms last longer than a few days?

With your doctor’s guidance, you can likely relieve your digestive issues and return to enjoying your pregnancy.

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