Ambien, generic name zolpidem, is a prescription sleep aid. While the drug poses some risk of dependency and increased depression in the normal population, it is generally safe for short-term use. A pregnant woman, however, must consider both the severity of her insomnia and how the medication may affect her fetus. These are matters she should bring up in a conversation with her health care provider.
Causes of Insomnia During Pregnancy
The rapidly fluctuating hormones and considerable increase in body size interfere with many a pregnant woman’s ability to sleep. Add to that a family or personal history of insomnia, worries over finances and anxiety about the birth, and it is no surprise that Babycenter states that 78 percent of pregnant women have sleep problems. Usually the insomnia is short-term and does not interfere with daily life.
If insomnia is long-term and significantly interferes with a pregnant woman’s ability to function on a basic level, she may want to consider the underlying cause. She might benefit from treating the core problem rather than the symptom. Yoga, acupuncture, supplements, massage, talk therapy and relaxation are all effective natural treatments for insomnia that could potentially diminish symptoms.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, rates Ambien a category C for pregnancy. This means that there are not enough studies of the drug’s effect on the fetus for it to be considered completely safe. Furthermore, the FDA states Ambien should be used during pregnancy “only if the potential benefit outweighs the potential risk to the fetus.”
Quite simply, if a pregnant woman takes Ambien she will sleep. Sleep is especially important in preparation for the marathon of labor and the immediate postpartum period when the newborn wakes to feed at least every two to three hours. If a mother enters labor and the postpartum period already sleep-deprived, her chances of developing a postpartum mood disorder dramatically increase, according to Dr. Christine Hibbert in her article "Postpartum Mood Disorders: An Informational Guide For Couples."
Ambien does cross the placenta, as noted on the FDA label. It is a sedative, and the ill effects of sedatives and painkillers used during labor are widely documented. Birth Psychology notes that sedatives may interfere with infant vision and maternal bonding right at birth and speech development later in life. Birth Psychology also reports that infants born to mothers on sedatives also have a higher chance of developing a drug and/or alcohol addiction.