Is It Safe to Take Ambien While Pregnant?

Ambien is a commonly-used sedative that is primarily prescribed as a sleep aid. The generic name of Ambien is zolpidem. It can help decrease the time it takes for someone to fall asleep and lengthen the time they stay asleep. Ambien is ingested orally, and its common side effects may include drowsiness, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches. The potentially more serious Ambien side effects can include memory problems, hallucinations, misuse, and physical dependence. Ambien works by binding to certain GABA receptors in the central nervous system.

Since it is frequently prescribed, people may wonder if it is a safe substance to take during pregnancy. It should be noted that taking Ambien while pregnant may not be safe. The generic, active ingredient zolpidem is classified as a pregnancy category C drug by the FDA. The FDA’s pregnancy categories are designed as a way to assess the likelihood that a substance will cause harm to the fetus if it is taken by the mother. There are instances where a woman might have been taking Ambien before becoming pregnant and wonder what happens if she continues to take it. Another scenario would be a woman who has insomnia after becoming pregnant. Insomnia is a common pregnancy side effect because of hormonal fluctuations, and anxiety over pregnancy and childbirth as well as general discomfort. An estimated 78 percent of pregnant women experience sleep issues.

Do you or someone you love have questions or concerns about a pregnancy and don’t know where to turn for help? Get support and answers at the American Pregnancy Association at 1-800-672-2296.

A category C drug like Ambien means that the potential for risks has not been ruled out. Animal studies have shown adverse effects on the fetus with the use of category C drugs. However, there aren’t human studies of these drugs being taken during pregnancy due to the apparent danger in conducting these studies. In some cases, even though there are risks of taking a category C drug during pregnancy, the benefits may outweigh the risks. For this to be determined, a pregnant woman must consult her physician. A physician might determine the benefits of Ambien during pregnancy outweigh the risks if the woman’s lack of sleep is interfering with other areas of her health or well-being.

Effects of Ambien on the Fetus

Insomnia is a frequently reported effect of pregnancy, but the Ambien effects on a fetus can be dangerous. Can you take Ambien while pregnant, and if so, what are the potential effects on the fetus?

Firstly, Ambien has the ability to cross the placenta. It is a sedative, and therefore the effects of the medication can pass on to the baby in vitro. There is little research showing a link between the use of Ambien while pregnant and congenital disabilities. In animal studies, when mothers took high doses during pregnancy, their babies were born at a lower birth weight. There have been some reports of human babies suffering from breathing problems at birth when mothers reported taking Ambien at the end of their pregnancy. It’s also possible that when a mother takes Ambien while pregnant, the baby may be born with withdrawal symptoms including limp, weak muscles. There are some reports of Ambien dosage during pregnancy being associated with interference in maternal bonding at birth and infant vision. Also possible are higher chances of a child developing a drug or alcohol addiction later in life.

There can also be indirect effects on a fetus when a mother takes Ambien. For example, it can cause dizziness, and put the person taking it at an increased risk of falling. Falling can be harmful to a fetus. Ambien can also increase the chances of dehydration, which can be especially dangerous during pregnancy. In addition, it’s inadvisable for women to take Ambien while breastfeeding. Taking Ambien while breastfeeding can cause changes in feeding habits of an infant, as well as lethargy.

Alternatives for Insomnia While Pregnant

For most people, Ambien is not a preferred insomnia treatment during pregnancy. If a woman is having significant problems with insomnia, something like a prescription tricyclic antidepressant may be prescribed. Even with other prescription medications that are considered safer than Ambien, risks are still possible. The unknown risks and side effects are why doctors will usually only advise pregnant women to take medications, prescription and over-the-counter, when it’s deemed absolutely necessary. When speaking with a physician about taking Ambien while pregnant, you should explore natural alternatives to treat insomnia. Some natural alternatives for insomnia while pregnant can include massage, yoga, meditation and learning different relaxation techniques. A doctor may advise a pregnant patient to change their sleep habits and surroundings while pregnant, as well. Some over-the-counter sleep aids may be advised for women who can’t find natural insomnia treatments that work for them. If you have been regularly taking Ambien before becoming pregnant, consult your doctor before you stop taking it. Withdrawal is possible with Ambien and can cause symptoms like uncontrollable crying, panic attacks, and vomiting.

To learn more about addiction treatment, and options available to you or someone you love, contact The Recovery Village.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.