According to the March of Dimes, approximately 150,000 babies are born with birth defects annually in the United States and 8 million worldwide. Other experts state that approximately 3 percent of all newborns have a major birth defect.
The definition of birth defects is generally any form of abnormality of function, structure, or metabolism that is present at birth. Birth defects, the leading cause of death in newborns, can range from minor to serious.
Over 4,000 types of birth defects are known, though some are more common than others. Birth defects often lead to mental or physical disabilities and are sometimes even fatal. Birth defects are one of the leading causes of infant mortality around the world.
So the question is what has this got to do with sleeping pills?
The fact of the matter is that during pregnancy, it’s very common to toss and turn every night, sometimes as your partner sleeps soundly.
For starters, your growing belly might make typical sleeping positions impossible or very comfortable. Pregnancy symptoms might also be less-than-soothing, and you may feel anxious about becoming a mother for the first (or second or third) time.
Some mothers-to-be may try to combat their insomnia with prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids—but are these safe? Also, can you take melatonin while pregnant?.
A 2015 research analysis suggested that two types of sleeping pills – benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines – could raise the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, small-for-gestational-age infants, and cesarean birth. Studies have also raised the possibility that using these medications while pregnant could cause breathing problems in newborns.
Benzodiazepines used for sleeping are Restoril (temazepam), ProSom (estazolam), Dalmane (flurazepam), Doral (quazepam), and Halcion (triazolam). Nonbenzodiazepines include Ambien (zolpidem), Imovane (zopiclone), Lunesta (eszopiclone), and Sonata (zaleplon).
There are also three barbiturates used as sleep aids: amobarbital, pentobarbital, and secobarbital. Although the data are limited, birth defects have been reported with amobarbital when it was taken in the first trimester. In addition, using any barbiturate near delivery can cause sedation in the newborn that can last for several days.
Other prescription sleeping pills include Chloralum (chloral hydrate), Amidate (etomidate), Rozerem (ramelteon), Belsomra (suvorexant), and Hetlioz (tasimelteon). The risk of these drugs in pregnancy is not known but could be similar to those observed with the benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepines, and barbiturates discussed above.
The bottom-line line is that you should avoid taking prescription sleeping pills during pregnancy especially during late pregnancy. There have been cases of breathing and muscle tone problems reported in infants exposed to these medications at that time.