Posted by Claudia Grazioso on January 5, 2012
When I was pregnant and completely unable to sleep, I tried to look at it as a good thing. (What can I say? The hormones really do do funny things to your brain. Or maybe it was the sleep deprivation itself.) I reasoned that this was not some kind of torture, it was preparation for the sleepless nights, the every-two-hours feedings, the late night gas bubble episodes and the prolonged teething that I was heading into. It was SEAL training for the suburban set. I muscled through. I made it. Okay, I looked like a truck had backed over my face, but hey, I was getting ready to be a mom. I had expected that.
But for some women, the sleeplessness really does take a toll. And some desperate pregnant insomniacs might be curious about pharmaceutical sleep aids. As is always the case with expectant moms, their first thought is “Are they safe for my baby?” On this one, the jury is still out. But if you are considering taking a sleep medication during your pregnancy, rule No. 1 is talk to your doctor first. Some sleep aids are classified as Category C drugs, meaning that no studies have been done on humans, but studies of the drug conducted on pregnant animals have indicated they could be harmful to developing fetuses. Additionally, a study in Denmark looked at barbiturate use in pregnancy (and some sleeping pills do fall into that category) and found that it could lead to lower IQs in children and possibly even to problems metabolizing bilirubin, which in turn can lead to jaundice. Also, any prolonged use of a drug can lead to withdrawal in an infant.
What do most healthcare providers recommend to sleepless pregnant women? The old standbys: relaxing music, white noise, warm milk. I would also like to add Boring Yourself To Tears to that list. When I would get really desperate for sleep, I would turn to the big books with tiny print on subjects like Quantum Physics or Chaos Theory that line the bottom of our bookshelf and make us look like really smart people. Three pages, and nighty-night.
If natural methods to help you sleep don’t work, talk to your doctor. There are some sleep aids that are considered Category B, which means that no studies have been done on humans, but animals studies have not yielded any worrisome results. Your doctor might be able to help you find the method or medication that is right for you and your baby.