Pregnancy can take a toll on expecting mothers, and getting adequate sleep is imperative for sustaining mental and physical health while carrying a fetus to term. Quality of sleep can be a particularly troublesome area for some women.
For women who either have preexisting sleep disorders or emerging issues with getting enough sleep during their pregnancy, relief in pill form might seem very appealing to women who have used medications before or are interested in trying them.
While prescription sleeping pills are a popular choice for a quick and effective solution, many types of sleep medication are not a healthy option for pregnant women.
Although hormonal changes and fluctuations are very common throughout pregnancy, they can increase stress and negatively affect mental health. Stress is a frequent cause of sleep deprivation, which mutually exacerbates mood swings and hormonal imbalances. Pregnancy-related insomnia symptoms can increase with each subsequent trimester.
Throughout pregnancy, insomnia and similar sleep issues can also be caused by:
- Back pain
- Restless leg syndrome
- Breathing issues
- Sinus congestion
- Nighttime urinary frequency
- Nocturnal wakefulness
- Anxiety and emotional stress
- Anticipatory worry about giving birth
- Vivid dreams or nightmares
- Physical discomfort due to bodily changes
Treatments And Remedies for Pregnancy-Related Insomnia
In general, prescription and over-the-counter sleeping pills are not recommended for women at any point during pregnancy. The primary reason for this is the potentially harmful effects such medications could have on the health of the developing fetus.
Unsafe Sleep Medications during Pregnancy
Among the prescription medications typically used for sleep improvement, benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax are considered the most unsafe for pregnant mothers and their infants’ health.
Even in small infrequent doses, the health hazards of benzodiazepines for infants in utero are high risk, and symptoms of benzodiazepine toxicity in newborns can include sedation, abnormally decreased muscle tone, respiratory issues, and cardiovascular complications.
Any prenatal exposure to barbiturates can also cause serious birth complications and health hazards for an unborn or newborn infant. Infants can also become chemically dependent on barbiturates, and could even go through postnatal withdrawal syndrome.
Safe Strategies for Improved Sleep During Pregnancy
Although medication might seem like the most sensible and effective treatment approach for sleep issues, there are some natural alternatives to medication that can help pregnant mothers get better sleep on a consistent nightly basis.
Safe and effective natural sleep remedies for pregnant women include:
- Melatonin supplements
- Magnesium supplements
- Chamomile tea
- Massage therapy
- Low-impact exercise
- Epsom salt baths
- Prenatal vitamins
- Meditation and relaxation exercises
Safe Medications for Pregnant Mothers
For soon-to-be mothers with more severe insomnia and disordered sleep problems, some over-the-counter sleep aids are potentially safe options if discussed beforehand with a healthcare provider.
Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine that is normally used to treat allergies, but it can also induce mild sedation and drowsiness. There is no connection between the use of Benadryl and maternal or neonatal health complications according to the CDC’s study of antihistamines and birth defects.
As long as a healthcare provider gives medical clearance and a woman does not have any abnormal reactions to diphenhydramine, Benadryl is safe to use for sleep in small doses during pregnancy.
Another over-the-counter sleeping aid that women can consider taking while pregnant is Unisom, or doxylamine. Similar to diphenhydramine, doxylamine is another type of antihistamine that has a primary side effect of drowsiness. It can also cause other side effects, such as dry mouth and malaise (a general feeling of discomfort or illness).
The brand Unisom also offers alternative sleeping aids in its product line that contain diphenhydramine, melatonin, and medicinal herbs that are beneficial for sleep.