Is It Safe to Take Unisom During Pregnancy?

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Unisom Sleep Tabs (doxylamine) is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that is typically used to treat insomnia (difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep) or mild cold and allergy symptoms. Unisom is an antihistamine, a type of medication that works to relieve the symptoms of an allergic reaction. 

During pregnancy, many people use Unisom to treat short-term insomnia on an as-needed basis. Often, doxylamine is combined with vitamin B6 to treat morning sickness (mild nausea and vomiting) during pregnancy. 

Unisom is generally considered safe to take during pregnancy. However, it’s important to learn the potential risks of taking any medication when you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Learn about Unisom during pregnancy, including uses, considerations, side effects, and alternative treatment options.

Woman in bed with insomnia

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Uses

Unisom is used to treat occasional insomnia as well as cold and allergy symptoms. 

Poor-quality sleep is common among pregnant people. Some people use antihistamines like Unisom to treat short-term insomnia during pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 10% to 15% of people take antihistamines at some point during pregnancy. 

Whether OTC or via prescription, doxylamine can also be combined with vitamin B6 to treat morning sickness. In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Diclegis (doxylamine-pyridoxine), an extended-release prescription medication, to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

Unisom Dosage During Pregnancy

If you’re taking Unisom as a sleep aid, the recommended adult dosage is one 25-milligram (mg) tablet about 30 minutes before bedtime. During pregnancy, it’s generally considered safe to take the typical adult dose of Unisom.

Considerations

Most pregnant people use OTC or prescription medication during the prenatal period. The CDC reports that around 9 in 10 people take at least one medication during pregnancy. 

However, it's important to remember that any medication you take during pregnancy comes with possible risks. Some medicines may increase the risk of developmental disabilities, premature birth, pregnancy loss, miscarriage, and birth defects.

According to the FDA, there is no evidence that Unisom increases the risk of health complications if taken during pregnancy.

Some early studies suggested that using doxylamine and other antihistamines during the first trimester could increase the risk of certain birth defects, such as cleft lip (gap in the upper lip) and cleft palate (gap in the roof of the mouth). However, more recent studies suggest that Unisom is safe to take during pregnancy.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), it is also safe to take Unisom and vitamin B6 to treat symptoms of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

Limited recent studies suggest that taking Diclegis during the first trimester could increase the risk of spina bifida (a birth defect in which the spinal column doesn't close all the way), nervous system defects, and musculoskeletal system defects.

However, the FDA lists Diclegis as a Category A medication. This means that it has been tested on pregnant people and proven safe in clinical trials.

As with any other medication you take during pregnancy, it's important to let your healthcare provider know if you take Unisom. Take no more than the recommended dose, and tell your healthcare provider if you experience any side effects.

Unisom Side Effects

Unisom is typically safe to use, and most side effects are mild. Common side effects from Unisom may include:

  • Dry nose and mouth
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Congestion
  • Nervousness or agitation
  • Headache

In rare cases, Unisom may cause severe side effects, such as:

  • Difficulty with urination
  • Blurred vision and other problems with vision

If you experience these or any other side effects while taking Unisom, tell your healthcare provider right away—especially if you’re pregnant.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Tell your healthcare provider right away if you experience severe side effects while taking Unisom, such as blurry vision or difficulty urinating. You should also let your healthcare provider know if you have any side effects from Unisom that aren’t going away.

Alternatives to Unisom

It’s common to experience difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep during pregnancy. If you’d prefer not to take Unisom as a sleep aid while you’re pregnant, here are some alternative options to help you get a good night’s rest:

  • Make sure you have enough magnesium and calcium, whether from your diet or supplements. This can help prevent restless legs syndrome (a condition that causes an overwhelming desire to move the legs) and leg cramps, both of which often affect pregnant people.
  • Restrict your intake of caffeinated drinks, especially in the afternoon and evening.
  • Avoid eating large meals right before going to sleep.
  • Try sleeping in a different position, such as on your left side, or using pregnancy pillows to get more comfortable.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene habits, such as going to bed at the same time every day, turning off your phone at least an hour before you go to bed, and sleeping in a dark, cool room.
  • Practice relaxation or mindfulness techniques, such as breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation.

If you’re taking Unisom and vitamin B6 to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, here are some possible alternative options to help settle your stomach:

  • Take a prenatal vitamin.
  • Eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day rather than one or two large meals.
  • Snack on bland foods, such as dry toast, as soon as you get up in the morning.
  • Try taking ginger supplements or drinking ginger tea.
  • Make sure you get enough protein, especially from nutritious foods like nuts, seeds, and lean meats.

Seek Help

If you’re pregnant, tell your healthcare provider right away if you have severe nausea and vomiting. You may have hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)—a serious condition that causes extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

If left untreated, HG can lead to complications like electrolyte imbalances (higher or lower concentrations of salts in the blood), dehydration, and unwanted weight loss.

Summary

Unisom (doxylamine) is an over-the-counter medication used to treat short-term insomnia. Some people use Unisom during pregnancy to help them fall asleep or stay asleep. It may also be used in combination with vitamin B6, to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

Generally speaking, it is safe to use the recommended adult dosage of Unisom during pregnancy. According to the FDA and the CDC, there is not enough evidence to suggest that taking Unisom during pregnancy raises the risk of birth defects, miscarriage, or pregnancy loss.

The side effects of Unisom are typically mild, ranging from dry mouth to headache, nervousness, and congestion.

Although Unisom is generally considered safe during pregnancy, it’s important to let your healthcare provider know if you are taking any medication while pregnant. Your healthcare provider may be able to recommend alternative treatment options for insomnia, nausea, or vomiting.

A Word From Verywell

It's good to want to avoid any adverse effects on your baby, but also natural to want relief from insomnia or morning sickness. Check with your healthcare provider about any substance you take during pregnancy, whether it's an OTC product, herbal supplement, or prescription. They can warn you about any risks and help you explore possible alternatives.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can Unisom cause birth defects?

    The FDA does not classify Unisom as a dangerous medication to take during pregnancy. Limited evidence from early studies suggested it might increase the risk of some birth defects. But more recent studies suggest that there is no link between antihistamines and birth defects.

  • How much Unisom is safe to take while pregnant?

    During pregnancy, it’s generally considered safe to take the typical adult dose of Unisom. As a sleep aid, the recommended adult dosage of Unisom is one 25-milligram tablet around half an hour before bedtime. If you take Unisom while pregnant, you should let your healthcare provider know.

  • Is it OK to take Unisom to fall asleep during pregnancy?

    Antihistamines like Unisom are generally safe to take as needed while pregnant, including as an occasional sleep aid. However, no medication is 100% risk-free during pregnancy. If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about the potential risks of taking Unisom or any other medicine.

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