Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it also comes with its fair share of not-so-fun symptoms. Heartburn and indigestion are common complaints, affecting around 45% of expectant mothers at some point or another. The burning sensation and discomfort can leave you desperate for relief. This is why many pregnant women reach for over-the-counter antacids like Alka Seltzer to treat their symptoms. But is it really safe to take Alka Seltzer during pregnancy?
Alka Seltzer is typically considered a go-to medicine for easing heartburn, sour stomach, and acid indigestion. The fizzy tablets are dissolved in water and drank for fast-acting relief. However, what some pregnant women don’t realize is that Alka Seltzer actually contains aspirin, an ingredient that can be risky during pregnancy.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at using Alka Seltzer while pregnant. We’ll explain why heartburn happens in pregnancy, why Alka Seltzer seems like an obvious solution, and most importantly, why the aspirin in it could potentially harm your unborn baby. We’ll also suggest some safer, natural alternatives for heartburn relief during pregnancy.
Why Heartburn Happens During Pregnancy
Heartburn is caused when stomach acid leaks back up into your esophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth down to your stomach. The esophageal sphincter is meant to prevent this backwash of acid, but in pregnancy, the hormone progesterone causes it to relax. This allows acid to flow upwards.
On top of this, as your uterus grows, it presses on your stomach. This further promotes the backflow of acid. Pregnancy also slows down digestion, so food sits in the stomach longer and is more likely to cause irritation.
Making matters worse, pregnancy can decrease the tone of the esophageal sphincter. A weaker sphincter means it does an even poorer job of sealing off the esophagus from the stomach.
For all these reasons, heartburn is a very common complaint during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters as the baby bump grows.
Why Alka Seltzer Seems Like the Obvious Remedy
When that painful burning sensation strikes, you want relief, fast! This is where Alka Seltzer seems like the perfect solution.
Alka Seltzer is an over-the-counter antacid and pain reliever. It contains three key active ingredients - aspirin, sodium bicarbonate, and citric acid.
The sodium bicarbonate acts as an antacid, neutralizing stomach acid and relieving the burning feeling. The citric acid helps activate the fizzy reaction when the tablet is dissolved, allowing the ingredients to start working quickly.
So in theory, yes - Alka Seltzer should ease your heartburn fast! The fizzy tablets begin reacting as soon as they hit water, providing speedy relief.
When you’re suffering pregnancy heartburn, Alka Seltzer can seem like just what the doctor ordered. Its pain and acid-reducing abilities may seem ideal for giving you back your comfort.
The Problem With Aspirin in Pregnancy
Here’s where things get tricky. Alka Seltzer contains aspirin, and aspirin can actually be dangerous during pregnancy.
Aspirin is part of a class of pain medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Unfortunately, NSAIDs like aspirin can cause serious kidney problems in unborn babies when taken during the third trimester.
The condition is called neonatal renal dysfunction. It’s rare, but if it happens, it can lead to low levels of amniotic fluid. This reduces blood flow to the baby’s kidneys.
In severe cases, it can keep the baby’s kidneys from developing properly. After birth, this can result in low urine output, dehydration, seizures and even death if not treated promptly.
For this reason, medical professionals advise pregnant women to avoid NSAIDs like aspirin unless they are specifically prescribed by a doctor. For most expectant mothers, the risks outweigh the benefits.
Is Alka Seltzer Off Limits During Pregnancy?
So should you avoid Alka Seltzer completely during pregnancy?
The general recommendation is yes - pregnant women should not take products containing aspirin such as Alka Seltzer unless instructed by their physician.
Alka Seltzer is not necessarily dangerous during the first and second trimesters. However, since the exact dates of the trimesters vary from woman to woman, it’s difficult to determine a safe cut-off point.
Therefore, it’s best to avoid taking it throughout pregnancy unless your doctor gives the go-ahead. They may approve Alka Seltzer for limited use in early pregnancy if the benefits outweigh the minimal risks.
Some Alka Seltzer varieties are labeled “aspirin-free” - these do NOT contain aspirin and are considered safe during pregnancy. Check the label carefully though, as even these versions were reformulated to contain aspirin after 2010.
The bottom line? Speak to your doctor before taking any kind of Alka Seltzer while pregnant. Don’t rely on any product containing aspirin to ease your heartburn without medical approval.
Natural, Pregnancy-Safe Heartburn Remedies
While you’ll need to skip the Alka Seltzer, there are still many options for relieving heartburn safely during pregnancy. Here are some tips:
Antacids - Over-the-counter antacids like Tums, Mylanta, Maalox, and Gaviscon are generally considered safe during pregnancy. They work by neutralizing stomach acid and providing quick relief.
H2 blockers - These medications reduce acid production. Pepcid and Zantac are over-the-counter options that may be recommended by your doctor.
Proton pump inhibitors - Prescription medications like Prilosec and Nexium are the most potent acid reducers. Your doctor may prescribe these if other remedies don’t work.
Avoid trigger foods - Spicy, fried, and fatty foods can worsen heartburn. Avoid onions, garlic, citrus fruits, chocolate, carbonated drinks, alcohol, and caffeine.
Eat smaller, more frequent meals - Don’t overload your stomach. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly.
Stay upright after eating - Gravity helps keep acid down. Don’t lie down within two hours of eating.
Elevate your head - Sleep with your head and shoulders propped up on pillows to prevent nighttime heartburn.
Wear loose clothing - Tight clothes add pressure on your stomach. Opt for loose, comfortable clothing.
Quit smoking - Smoking relaxes the esophageal sphincter, allowing acid backwash. Quitting can ease heartburn.
Manage stress - Stress and anxiety may worsen acid reflux. Try relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.
Avoid late-night eating - Eating a full meal right before bed means acid will likely still be active. Have an early, light dinner.
The good news is you have plenty of pregnancy-safe options for relief! Work with your doctor to find the best remedies for your heartburn symptoms.
When to See Your Doctor About Heartburn
While over-the-counter antacids and lifestyle adjustments may be enough to control occasional heartburn in pregnancy, don’t hesitate to see your doctor if symptoms persist or get worse.
You should make an appointment with your healthcare provider right away if you experience:
- Heartburn 4 or more days per week
- Heartburn that doesn’t respond to antacids or food avoidance
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unintentional weight loss
- Vomiting or regurgitation
- Pain that radiates to your arm, neck or jaw
- A persistent cough or wheezing
Severe, chronic heartburn can lead to further complications like acid reflux disease (GERD) or damage to your esophagus. Your doctor needs to evaluate your symptoms to rule out other potential gastrointestinal issues.
You should also let your doctor know if antacids or acid blockers don’t provide sufficient relief. They may recommend prescription-strength medication or alternative treatment options.
Don’t try to tough it out! Seeking proper medical treatment will help you avoid unnecessary discomfort and health risks during your pregnancy.
When Heartburn May Indicate Something More Serious
In rare cases, severe heartburn can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. Call your doctor immediately if you experience:
- Heartburn along with vomiting and weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing that persists or gets progressively worse
- Frequent choking on food
- Unexplained iron deficiency anemia
These may be symptoms of gastrointestinal complications that require prompt medical intervention. Potential causes include:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Peptic ulcer
- Hiatal hernia
Only your doctor can diagnose these conditions and provide appropriate treatment to resolve them. Left untreated, some complications like GERD or ulcers can have serious consequences.
While it’s unlikely heartburn is signaling something more serious, it’s always better to be safe. Connect with your healthcare provider promptly if you have any concerning symptoms along with pregnancy heartburn.
When to Try Alka Seltzer or Aspirin During Pregnancy
To recap, Alka Seltzer and other products containing aspirin are not recommended during pregnancy unless specifically approved by your doctor. The risks generally outweigh the benefits for expectant mothers.
However, there are some circumstances where your doctor may advise taking Alka Seltzer or aspirin for limited use. This includes:
- Severe migraine headache
- Very high fever
- Pain from an injury, trauma or surgery
- Joint inflammation that doesn’t respond to other treatment
- Aspirin prescribed at low dose for preeclampsia risk
Your physician will weigh the pros and cons in your individual case. Never take aspirin or Alka Seltzer during pregnancy without talking to your doctor first.
While heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux are common in pregnancy, resist the urge to take Alka Seltzer for relief. The aspirin it contains could potentially harm your baby. Instead, try an antacid free of aspirin or NSAIDs. And check with your OB-GYN if symptoms are severe, persistent or accompanied by other concerning signs.
The Takeaway - Use Caution With Alka Seltzer in Pregnancy
Alka Seltzer may seem like the perfect quick fix when heartburn strikes during pregnancy. But with its aspirin content, it also poses some risk. While the chances of complications are low, medical professionals prefer to err on the side of caution.
The bottom line? Alka Seltzer and other aspirin-containing products are best avoided during pregnancy unless specifically approved by your doctor. Stick to safer antacids, lifestyle changes and medications to manage your heartburn symptoms.
And remember - if you have severe, persistent heartburn or other concerning gastrointestinal issues in pregnancy, see your doctor right away. Getting the right treatment will help you feel your best during this special time!