Changing hormone levels, a growing belly, back pain, and increasingly restless legs — these are just some of the reasons an expectant mom has a tough time falling asleep.
During all trimesters of pregnancy, sleep is essential. Without enough sleep, you’ll feel the other symptoms of pregnancy even more.
Before you were pregnant, taking a nighttime over-the-counter sleep aid like Unisom seemed like an easy solution. But now that you’re eating (and sleeping) for two, it’s not clear if you can take the medicine safely.
Here’s what you should consider.
What Is Unisom?
Unisom SleepTabs are a medicine people take to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. It’s also common to take it during pregnancy to help with nausea and vomiting. The main ingredient in Unisom is doxylamine succinate, which makes a person feel drowsy.
The medication also contains the following inactive ingredients:
- dibasic calcium phosphate
- FD&C blue No. 1 aluminum lake
- magnesium stearate
- microcrystalline cellulose
- sodium starch glycolate
Unisom’s package describes it as a non habit-forming alternative to prescription sleep aids.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) generally recognizes Unisom as safe and effective. But the medicine is intended to treat temporary sleeplessness. It isn’t intended to be a long-term solution to help a person sleep.
How Does Unisom Work?
The active ingredient in Unisom is an antihistamine. Another antihistamine that may sound familiar is diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in medicines such as Benadryl.
When you take Unisom, the medication blocks the production of histamine and acetylcholine in the body. When these compounds are reduced, a person will start to feel sleepier.
If you are solely having trouble sleeping while pregnant, your doctor might recommend Benadryl. Unisom is likely to be recommended for consistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
What Pregnancy Category Is Unisom?
When you are expecting, you and your baby share more than your belly. Everything you eat, take, and sometimes even put on your skin can be circulated through your baby, too. That’s why things like sushi, deli meats, aspirin, and skincare products with retinoids are off-limits.
The FDA created different categories to relay basic information about medication safety for pregnant women. These categories are A, B, C, D, and X. Category A medicines have no evidence of risk in the first and later trimesters. Category X medications have been known to cause fetal abnormalities and aren’t recommended while pregnant.
The FDA classifies Unisom as Category B. This means the medication is likely safe because animal reproductive trials haven’t shown any complications.
But Category B also means there aren’t definitive human trials that prove that the medication is totally safe for use in the first trimester or beyond.
The first trimester is the period of greatest growth and development for your baby. That’s why the most caution should be used when taking medications during that time.
Considerations When Taking Unisom
From an FDA perspective, Unisom is largely considered safe for pregnant women. But you should always talk to your doctor before taking any medications. Not only should you consider the medicine’s effects on your baby, but you should also ensure that it does not interact with other medicines you are taking.
Think about the risks and benefits before taking Unisom. If your sleep is greatly affected to the point where you are having difficulty functioning during the day, talk to your doctor.
If for some reason you do experience side effects associated with Unisom, call the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088. You can also report side effects on the FDA’s website.
Alternative At-Home Treatments
If your doctor recommends against Unisom or other sleep aids during pregnancy, there are still steps you can take to sleep better.
Try the following for a better night’s rest.
- Exercise 30 minutes per day, with your physician’s OK.
- Sleep on your left side, which improves blood flow to your baby and kidneys. Placing a pillow between your knees can also reduce the pressure on your low back.
- Slightly reduce the amount of fluids you drink in the hours leading up to bedtime to reduce nighttime bathroom trips.
- Take a prenatal vitamin that contains iron and folate, which reduce the chance of restless legs syndrome during pregnancy.
While daytime naps can help you feel less sleepy, long naps may make falling or staying asleep at night more difficult.
While pregnancy can often result in lost Zzz’s, the issues that affect sleep during pregnancy typically resolve after giving birth. Unfortunately, after your baby is born, you won’t be sleeping for long stretches of time anyway, so it’s important to rest up now.
The FDA does not categorize Unisom as a dangerous drug for pregnancy, but always check with your doctor before taking it. You’ll also want to ask your doctor about the medicine’s safety if you are breast-feeding after you have your little one.