Is It Safe to Take Benadryl During Pregnancy?

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that is typically used to treat allergy symptoms, such as eye irritation, coughing, and sneezing. It can also be used to relieve nausea and insomnia. 

If you’re pregnant, you may wonder if it’s safe to use Benadryl. Typically, diphenhydramine is considered safe to take during pregnancy. Learn more about Benadryl uses, dosage, side effects, and alternatives to ensure the safety of you and your baby.

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Benadryl Uses

Benadryl is an H1-receptor antagonist, which is one type of antihistamine. Antihistamines work to relieve allergy symptoms by blocking the release of histamine—a chemical that works with your immune system and causes allergic reactions.

Diphenhydramine can be used to treat common symptoms of colds, allergies, mild asthma, and hay fever, including:

  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery, or itchy eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Hives
  • Coughing 
  • Sneezing 
  • Minor throat irritation

Because Benadryl causes drowsiness, it can also be used to promote sleep and relieve occasional insomnia. Some people also use it to prevent and treat nausea (such as morning sickness), motion sickness, and mild digestive issues.

Safety During Pregnancy

About 90% of people who are pregnant take OTC or prescription medication at some point during pregnancy. 

While many people need to continue taking medicine throughout pregnancy, it’s also important to weigh the potential risks. Using certain medications during pregnancy can increase the risk of serious health complications, including birth defects, developmental disabilities, premature birth, stillbirth, and miscarriage. 

Benadryl is generally considered safe to take during pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there is not sufficient evidence to link Benadryl and other antihistamines to birth defects. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) organizes medications into pregnancy categories based on their potential risk to the mother, embryo, and fetus. The FDA lists Benadryl as a Category B drug, meaning that studies on animals have not revealed that diphenhydramine raises the risk of birth defects.

However, more research needs to be done to establish that Benadryl does not pose a risk to the developing embryo or fetus. Also, no medication is 100% risk-free during pregnancy. Therefore, you should take Benadryl only when you need it. Let your healthcare provider know if you take Benadryl and are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

Antihistamines During Pregnancy

Antihistamine use during pregnancy is common. According to the CDC, about 10% to 15% of pregnant people report using antihistamines.

First Trimester

A few older studies suggested that Benadryl and other antihistamines could slightly increase the risk of birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate. However, more recent research refutes these findings.

Newer studies suggest that there is not enough evidence to support the idea that antihistamines pose any risk to the developing embryo or fetus, including during the first trimester.

Dosage

Typically, it’s considered safe for pregnant people to take the usual recommended dose of Benadryl. To treat allergy and cold symptoms, people ages 12 and up can take one to two Benadryl tablets or capsules every four to six hours. Do not take more than six doses within a 24-hour period.

Potential Issues

Benadryl and other antihistamines are sometimes combined with nasal decongestants to treat cold and allergy symptoms. Common decongestants such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine (both found in Sudafed) have been linked to a slightly increased risk of certain birth defects when taken during the first trimester.

Decongestants may also raise your blood pressure, which can be risky during pregnancy. If you can, avoid taking Benadryl in combination with decongestants while pregnant.

Make sure to take Benadryl during pregnancy only as directed. Do not take more than the recommended dose, and don’t take it more frequently than your healthcare provider directs.

Benadryl Side Effects

Most people who take Benadryl experience only mild side effects, including:

In some cases, Benadryl can cause serious side effects, such as problems with vision, painful urination, or difficulties with urination. If you experience any of these side effects, seek medical help right away.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you are pregnant, let your healthcare provider know if you experience any side effects from Benadryl. Some potential side effects, such as dizziness or vomiting, may be more dangerous during pregnancy than at other times.

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you have more serious side effects from Benadryl, such as vision problems or painful urination.

Alternatives for Benadryl

If you’re concerned about feeling drowsy while taking Benadryl, you can try another antihistamine as an alternative. Claritin (loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine) both work to relieve hay fever and allergy symptoms like itching, sneezing, and runny nose without making you feel sleepy.

Avoid Claritin D and Zyrtec D (antihistamines combined with pseudoephedrine), especially during the first trimester.

Some people want to avoid taking medication as much as possible during pregnancy. If so, you can try more natural methods of relieving your allergy symptoms, including: 

  • Saline nasal spray
  • Nasal irrigation (such as rinsing with a neti pot)
  • Vacuuming regularly
  • Cleaning bedding, rugs, and curtains more often to avoid pet dander and dust
  • Avoiding seasonal allergies such as pollen by wearing a mask or staying indoors
  • Hot showers

Summary

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine that is used to treat allergy symptoms, nausea, and insomnia. Side effects are usually mild, ranging from dry mouth and headache to drowsiness, dizziness, and loss of appetite. More severe side effects may include problems with vision and/or urination. 

Many pregnant people report taking Benadryl occasionally throughout their pregnancy. According to the FDA, Benadryl is a Category B medication, meaning that it is considered generally safe for pregnant people to take the recommended adult dose.

While some early studies suggested that antihistamines could slightly raise the risk of certain birth defects, more recent research does not indicate that Benadryl is unsafe to take during the prenatal period.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, let your healthcare provider know that you’re taking Benadryl. While it’s usually safe to take Benadryl during pregnancy, your healthcare provider can let you know more about the potential risks and alternatives.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much Benadryl can a pregnant person take?

    It is generally considered safe for pregnant people to take the typical recommended dose of Benadryl. For allergy and cold symptoms, the typical recommended dose of Benadryl is one to two tablets or capsules (12.5 to 25 milligrams) every four to six hours. Do not take more than six doses within a 24-hour period.

  • Is Benadryl safe to take during pregnancy?

    Benadryl is generally considered safe to take during pregnancy. According to the FDA, Benadryl is a Category B medication. This means that animal studies have not indicated that Benadryl poses a risk to a developing fetus.

  • Does Benadryl cross the placenta?

    Yes, Benadryl has been found to cross the placental barrier. In fact, most drugs cross the placenta in some amount during pregnancy. The potential risk to the developing embryo or fetus depends on the type of drug, as well as the dosage and frequency.

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14 Sources
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