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Pregnancy Topics..

You are here : home > Pregnancy > Medical Aspects of Pregnancy > Hypnotics and Sedatives

Hypnotics and Sedatives

Hypnotics and Sedatives

Taking hypnotics and sedatives during pregnancy may not be safe. Learn about the effects of hypnotics and sedatives on pregnancy.

Restless legs syndrome and insomnia are some common sleep disorders in pregnancy. If you are looking for treatment option, you need to be well informed about probable effects of sedatives and hypnotics in pregnancy. Parasomnia is a common sleep disorder that often stays all through pregnancy and this calls for proper treatment. Before taking medicines of any sort, you need to understand how safely you can consume them with your little one developing inside. Therefore, you must never take any medication without consulting your obstetrician.

Effects of Hypnotics and Sedatives on Pregnancy

For hypnotics:  Nitrazepam is a drug of choice over barbiturates. For sedatives and tranquilisers: Diazepam is a benzodiazepine tranquiliser with sedative, muscle relaxant, amnesic properties. It is used to treat anxiety and tension states.


Barbiturates cross the placenta and appear in the foetus.  After prolonged continuous usage during a large part of pregnancy, they can give rise to hypotension, reduced respiratory function and hypothermia in the newborn child.  Continuous treatment during pregnancy and administration during labour should therefore be avoided.


Benzodiazepins cross the placenta and appear in the foetus and may, after continuous administration during a large part of pregnancy, give rise to hypotension, reduced respiratory function and hypothermia in the newborn child.  Continuous treatment during pregnancy and administration of high doses during labour should therefore be avoided.  Withdrawal symptoms in newborn infants have occasionally been reported with this class of drugs.

Other Hypnotics and Sedatives

Other hypnotics and sedatives like chloral hydrate, chlormethiazole, hydroxyzine and valerian are considered safe during pregnancy.

Products: Diazepam
For Children: Safe
For Pregnant Women: Contra-indicated
For Breastfeeding Mothers: Safety not established
Contra-indications*: Respiratory depression
Caution: Can cause psychological/physical dependence

*Not to be used in the conditions stated, because it could cause complications. Medicines should not be used without the prescription of doctor during pregnancy.

Effects of Medicine of Various Categories on Pregnancy

Bringing healthy changes in lifestyle is probably one of the best ways to deal with sleep disorders in pregnancy. It is always better to avoid medications for sleeplessness in pregnancy. Again, in extreme conditions it is better to use them under the strict supervision of your obstetrician. Most of the medicines are not tested thus the associated complications cannot be ruled out completely. Experiments and studies conducted on animals however tell us about the safety of the medicines in pregnancy.

Following are some of the categories of medicine in pregnancy:

  • B Category Medicines: Studies are conducted on animals in this case and the results do not show any adverse effect on the foetus. However, the studies are not conducted on humans to see effects on the growing foetus in the first trimester.
  • C Category Medicines: The tests conducted have shown adverse effect on the foetusof the animals. However, there are no results of tests conducted on women in this case. Thus, there are quite a number of risk factors associated with medicines under this category.
  • D Category Medicines: Even though potential risk factors are present, the benefits outweigh the risk factors. However, these medicines should not be taken without the prescription of an obstetrician.
  • X Category Medicines: Tests conducted have shown evidences of abnormalities in foetusof the animals and women taking medicines categorised under this.

Other Effects of Medicines Used in Pregnancy

Medications are offered in pregnancy for treating conditions such as Parasomnia, insomnias, RLS, narcolepsy and so on. Category B medicines are considered the safest and the Category X are considered the most dangerous during pregnancy.


Diazepam is a D Category medicine that is often suggested in pregnancy. This hypnotic medicine is often known to be associated with palate or chances of cleft lip though the connections could not be established firmly yet. Vigorous use of this medicine in pregnancy can result in different problems such as craniofacial defects, growth retardation, mental retardation, dysmorphic features and so on. This is the reason why US Food and Drug Administration Pregnancy group it under D Category medicine.


Benzodiazepines a D Category medicine is also known to be associated with some birth defects. Hydroxyzine and diphenhydramine are some antihistamines that are suggested to treat insomnia. Since there is no such evidence of ill effects on the foetus, it is grouped under the B Category medicines.  Hydroxyzine is a C Category medicine that is known to show teratogenic in rats and mice and absence of data in case of humans.


Non-benzodiazepine hypnotic, Zolpidemis rated under B Category, even though it is not highly prescribed in pregnancy. When taken in very high doses, it is reported to have given rise to problems such as skull and bone deformations. Trazodone when taken in high doses are known to cause toxicity to the foetus and thus rated under Group C.

Thus, it is always better to look for alternative treatment measures like natural relaxation techniques when it comes to dealing with discomforts in pregnancy. However, do not forget to take medicines that doctor suggests you after carefully considering your case. Rely on your doctor completely to ensure a happy and a healthy pregnancy.

What are hypnotics and sedatives? Is it safe to take hypnotics and sedatives during pregnancy? What are the effects of taking hypnotics and sedatives during pregnancy? Discuss here.

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fiona.7 years ago
rather than self medication, it is better to consult the doctor for any problems....
shymala.7 years ago
what are Barbiturates? Please use simpler or common terms instead of medical ones...
Rakhee.7 years ago
could you simplify the terms in this article....i am unable to understand a thing...
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