Benadryl When Pregnant: Safety, Dosage And Side Effects

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Benadryl is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that helps relieve allergies, colds, coughs, and sleeplessness when a body fights infections. Although this medication is commonly used, can you take Benadryl while pregnant?

Pregnancy can weaken the immune system and make the woman more susceptible to infections (1). Thus, pregnant women may often resort to taking Benadryl. However, before using Benadryl to relieve the symptoms of your illness, it is important to consult a doctor.

What Is Benadryl?

Benadryl, also known as diphenhydramine, is a type of antihistamine that is used to treat a cough, cold, itching, watery eyes, hives, and other allergy symptoms.

The drug is available in two major forms, tablets and syrup (2). Other brand names of diphenhydramine include Sominex, Nytol, and Unisom.

Is It Safe To Take Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) While Pregnant?

Yes, it is safe to take Benadryl during pregnancy, but only after consulting your doctor.

The US Food and Drug Administration lists Benadryl as a category B drug for pregnancy risks, which means that it has no known harmful side effects (3). However, there is no proof that it is entirely safe during pregnancy, and it should only be taken if prescribed by a doctor.

How Much Benadryl Is Safe To Take During Pregnancy?

The recommended oral dosage of Benadryl is 25mg to 50mg (one to two Benadryl tablets) once every four to six hours as suggested by the doctor for mild symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe an oral dosage of up to 300 mg/day for more severe symptoms (4). This recommended dosage of Benadryl is for all adults, including pregnant women.

Benadryl can sometimes lead to drowsiness or dizziness, so avoiding activities such as driving or working with tools or machinery when you are on this medication is better. In any case, take the dosage prescribed by the doctor to stay safe.

What Are Some Reasons Women Take Benadryl During Pregnancy?

Benadryl has been considered safe for pregnant women if prescribed by the doctor; so your doctor may prescribe Benadryl for managing and treating (4):

  • Allergy symptoms
  • Insomnia 
  • Cough
  • Skin rashes (pruritus)
  • Urticaria
  • Symptoms of motion sickness, including dizziness, nausea, and vomiting

What Could Be The Side Effects Of Benadryl During Pregnancy?

Benadryl is not linked to any congenital abnormalities but may cause some potentially adverse side effects. Some of the common side effects of Benadryl include (4):

When taken in excess, it could put the mother at risk of the following conditions.

  1. Nervous system effects: Benadryl has sedating qualities and causes drowsiness, which can lead to depression in the long term. It also causes light-headedness, blurred vision, spatial and mental disorientation, loss of appetite, hallucinations, nervousness, and insomnia (5).
  1. Hypersensitivity: Studies by the John Hopkins University showed that diphenhydramine could cause hypersensitivity that could lead to rashes, eczema, and pruritus (6).
  1. Cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems: Headaches, hypotension, palpitations and tachycardia, and mild gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth are also noticed (7).

What Are The Effects Of Taking Benadryl On The Unborn Baby?

While Benadryl is safe to be taken during all trimesters of pregnancy, if taken in excess or for more than recommended duration, it may also put the unborn baby at risk.

  1. Fetal morbidity: Benadryl, in combination with another drug Restoril (or temazepam used for treating anxiety), is likely to increase the risks of fetal morbidity (8).
  1. Congenital abnormalities: Studies show that taking diphenhydramine (Benadryl) in the first trimester can increase the chances of the baby having a cleft lip or palate (9). However, recent studies showed no correlation between Benadryl and fetal malformations (10).

When To Avoid Benadryl During Pregnancy?

Stay off Benadryl if you have any of the following:

  • Colostomy or ileostomy
  • Breathing issues such as asthma
  • Gastro and intestinal conditions
  • Liver and kidney problems
  • Urinary problems
  • Glaucoma
  • Blood pressure
  • Thyroid problem

What Are The Alternatives To Benadryl During Pregnancy?

If you are still concerned about taking Benadryl during pregnancy, you can opt for other alternatives. However, do consult a doctor before trying any of these. Your doctor can suggest the right dose of OTC medicines based on your trimester.

  • You may consider OTC nasal steroid sprays, budesonide, and fluticasone propionate, for managing allergy symptoms during pregnancy (11).
  • Home remedies, such as gargling with salt water and using saline nasal and eye drops, may also help manage allergy and cold symptoms during pregnancy (12).
  • You may consider aromatherapy using essential oils to manage insomnia. (13). Some other ways to relax include meditation or gentle self-massage before sleep (14).
  • Your doctor may also prescribe second-generation antihistamines, including loratadine and cetirizine, as an alternative to Benadryl since they usually cause less drowsiness (15).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Benadryl cream safe during pregnancy?

It is safe to use topical Benadryl during pregnancy as there are no known effects of it. It is used to treat allergies or an irritant reaction on the skin. Check with your doctor before using it anyway.

2. Can I take Tylenol and Benadryl together while pregnant?

Tylenol is used for treating muscle aches and pain associated with the common cold. Benadryl is for treating allergy symptoms. They are safe when taken separately, but check with your doctor before taking them together, as the effect of these medicines may not be the same for all.

3. Can I take Benadryl every night while pregnant?

Never take Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or any other drug during pregnancy without your doctor’s advice. Any drug should be avoided during the first trimester as it’s the organogenesis phase, where the baby is being formed. Even if needed, Benadryl can be used for symptomatic relief during second and third trimesters in the short term and not daily. Discuss with your doctor.

4. Can I use Benadryl spray during pregnancy?

Benadryl itch relief spray is safe to use during pregnancy. It temporarily relieves pain and itching caused by cuts/burns/scrapes, rashes, insect bites, skin irritations, and more. However, you should check with your doctor before using it.

5. Does Benadryl cross the placenta?

Yes. Benadryl can cross the placenta, although its effects on the fetus are not fully known. Thus, for this reason, you must have only the dosage prescribed by your doctor for a specific duration (3).

Infographic: Less Sedating Options For Allergies During Pregnancy

First-generation antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, may be preferred during pregnancy. However, these drugs can cause drowsiness, which may make a pregnant woman accident-prone. Keep this infographic handy if you wish to know non-sedating options for treating your allergic condition.

Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

You should be very careful while taking medications during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. No medicine is 100% safe and should be taken only after consulting a doctor. So, if you get yourself thinking, “Can you take Benadryl while pregnant?”- The answer is YES. Benadryl during pregnancy is usually safe, but its usage should be restricted to a minimum and only when prescribed by a physician. It may cause drowsiness, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, or palpitations. So, it is advisable to avoid self-medication and try dealing with minor allergies without using medications.

Key Pointers

  • Benadryl is a commonly prescribed pregnancy category B drug for allergy symptoms.
  • It can adversely affect the nervous, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems and cause other maternal risks if taken in excess.
  • Earlier studies showed an association between Benadryl and congenital abnormalities; however, newer studies showed no such relation.
  • If Benadryl is contraindicated, your doctor can prescribe OTC nasal sprays and other alternative drugs during pregnancy.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Gil Mor and Ingrid Cardenas; (2011); The Immune System in Pregnancy: A Unique Complexity.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3025805/
  2. LABEL: BENADRYL- diphenhydramine hydrochloride tablet film coated.
    https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=de2a64ce-c169-4162-b79e-d3809bea2147
  3. Sumit Kar et al.; (2012); A review of antihistamines used during pregnancy.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356948/
  4. Vincent Sicari and Christopher P. Zabbo; (2021); Diphenhydramine.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526010/
  5. Short- and long-term effects of misusing antihistamines.
    https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/short-and-long-term-effects-misusing-antihistamines
  6. Acute Hypersensitivity Reactions: What Nurses Need to Know.
    https://magazine.nursing.jhu.edu/2011/04/acute-hypersensitivity-reactions-what-nurses-need-to-know/
  7. diphenhydramine hydrochloride injection (Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride Injection) injection, solution.
    https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/archives/fdaDrugInfo.cfm?archiveid=1192
  8. GA Kargas, et al.; (1985); Perinatal Mortality Due to Interaction of Diphenhydramine and Temazepam.
    https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJM198511283132215?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed
  9. Suzanne M. Gilboa et al.; (2009); Use of Antihistamine Medications During Early Pregnancy and Isolated Major Malformations.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619228/
  10. Qian Li MS, et al.; (2013); Assessment of Antihistamine Use in Early Pregnancy and Birth Defects.
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2213219813003024
  11. Intranasal steroids in pregnancy.
    https://www.aaaai.org/allergist-resources/ask-the-expert/answers/old-ask-the-experts/pregs
  12. Medications Safe For Pregnancy.
    https://hospital.uillinois.edu/primary-and-specialty-care/family-birth-place/prenatal-care/your-pregnancy-overview/medications-safe-for-pregnancy
  13. Aromatherapy – Uses For Pleasure & Well Being.
    http://ssbea.mercer.edu/patelt/aromath.htm
  14. How to Get Sleep During Pregnancy.
    https://www.lancastergeneralhealth.org/health-hub-home/motherhood/your-pregnancy/how-to-get-sleep-during-pregnancy
  15. Pregnancy and Allergy.
    https://acaai.org/allergies/allergies-101/who-gets-allergies/pregnancy-and-allergy/
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Reshmi Das

Reshmi Das has over three years of experience as a clinical coordinator, medical content writer and medical conference coordinator. Her continuous interest in medical journals and writing makes her write well-researched articles for MomJunction. She writes health and wellness articles for children and pregnant and lactating women. Reshmi has completed her post graduation in Biotechnology from MITS School of Biotechnology,... more

Dr. Vimee Bindra

(MS, MHA)
Dr. Vimee Bindra is a Consultant Gynaecologist, Laparoscopic Surgeon, and medical writer. She specializes in Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Gynae Endoscopic Surgery, and Endometriosis Excision. She graduated from R G Kar Medical College, Kolkata (1998-2003), and pursued her post-graduation in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Kolkata (2005-2008). She also obtained the advanced Laparoscopy and Hysteroscopy training from Clermont Ferrand in France. Dr.... more

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