Can I Take Benadryl While Pregnant?

Pregnant person sitting in bed with tissue blowing nose

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The sneezing, coughing, and itchy, watery eyes that plague seasonal allergy sufferers can make anyone miserable, especially if you are pregnant. That's because a pregnant person’s fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels can sometimes also cause nasal symptoms like sneezing and runny nose, which can make allergies feel even worse.

Maybe the trees and flowers are dropping lots of pollen, or perhaps you used a new detergent and now you're breaking out in hives from an allergic reaction. No matter the cause, if you are pregnant and suffering from allergies, you might be wondering whether you can safely reach for the Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to get some relief. 

Benadryl is generally safe to take during pregnancy as an antihistamine to combat allergy symptoms. There are certain precautions you’ll want to heed when taking the medication because it does have side effects. If you’re looking for relief for your allergy symptoms that do not include medication, you can consider pregnancy safe homeopathic alternatives as well. 

What Is Benadryl?

Benadryl is classified as an antihistamine. It works by blocking the effects of histamine in the body. Histamine is released when your body encounters a threat that it wants to get rid of, like allergens. When you inhale airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and pet dander, you might end up with nasal symptoms as your system responds.

Sometimes your immune system might overreact to these allergens entering through your nasal passages by triggering your body to release too much histamine, causing allergy symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. People can also break out in hives as a reaction to the use of certain soaps or shampoos on sensitive skin. When you take Benadryl, the active ingredient diphenhydramine temporarily relieves these allergy symptoms.

People can take Benadryl to relieve symptoms caused by the common cold as well since many cold symptoms also include runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. Benadryl can give you temporary relief so that you can go about your day and get a better night’s rest.

Sometimes, since drowsiness is a common side effect of the medication, people will take Benadryl as a treatment for insomnia to help them get to sleep. The drug produces a mild sedative effect, which can be abused if taken in large doses.

Is It Safe to Take Benadryl During Pregnancy?

When you’re suffering from an allergic reaction, you want to take something to help relieve the symptoms. Pregnant people have used Benadryl routinely and safely as an antihistamine to block the effects of allergic reactions.

Benadryl is generally safe to take during pregnancy. It is classified as a Category B medication by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This classification means the drug is believed to pose no risk to people taking the medication during pregnancy, and no risk to the baby as well.

However, it doesn’t mean that it’s completely risk-free. “There are no controlled studies to show it’s definitely safe in pregnancy,” says Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, an OB-GYN at NYU Langone Health and founder of Saving Mothers.

Pregnant people still need to be cautious when taking the drug. “Healthcare professionals advise [people] to take Benadryl only when you need it for allergies since no medication is 100% safe to use during pregnancy,” says Clinical Pharmacist Jerry Wong, PharmD, who has worked at Texas Children's Hospital and Houston Methodist Hospital. “Benadryl should be used in the lowest effective dose for the shortest time possible,” he cautions.

If your allergies are ongoing and you need relief beyond the occasional dose, speak to your physician. “Don't use any medication regularly in pregnancy unless prescribed by a physician,” advises Dr. Shirazian.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking Benadryl while pregnant.

What If I Take Benadryl Before Realizing I'm Pregnant?

If you took Benadryl without realizing you were pregnant, you don’t need to worry. Over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl are considered safe and pose no risk to you or your baby. 

However, if you have been taking it regularly and plan to continue regular use of it after finding out you are pregnant, you should talk to a pharmacist or doctor. Even though pregnant people should be cautious about medication, make sure to consult a physician before stopping or making any changes to how you take your regular medications.

Safety Precautions

Although Benadryl is safe to take when pregnant, you should still be vigilant and take certain precautions.

Side Effects of Benadryl

As with most medications, Benadryl does have side effects. Benadryl can cause a drop in blood pressure which can lead to symptoms like dizziness. If you are sitting or lying down, get up slowly so that you don't suddenly feel dizzy and risk falling down.

Benadryl can also cause drowsiness. You should refrain from operating heavy machinery since drowsiness can affect your judgment. Avoid driving when you’re taking Benadryl since it can impair your ability to function even if you do not feel drowsy.

“These [dizziness and drowsiness] side effects should go away within a few days. If they are more severe or do not go away, you should talk to your pharmacist or your doctor,” Wong says. 

Taking two kinds of diphenhydramine medications at the same time can also increase the risk of side effects since you are increasing your dosage. Even if you take an oral form and a topical form, the extra dosage counts as well. 

Possible Contraindications and Adverse Interactions

Consult a healthcare provider if you are already on a medication and plan to take Benadryl as well. Sometimes ingredients in one medication might interact with another, causing it to change what each does in your body. To make sure there are no contraindications and adverse drug interactions between Benadryl and your medication, speak to a physician beforehand.

Another kind of adverse interaction can happen between medication like Benadryl and alcohol. Alcohol is not considered safe to consume while pregnant regardless of medication, but since drinking alcohol can also increase drowsiness and decrease alertness, it is especially important not to mix the two. Alcohol can worsen the side effects of Benadryl, causing you to take an even greater risk with your general safety.

Avoid Long-Term Use of Benadryl

If you decide to take Benadryl on a daily basis, you’ll want to talk with a physician. Pregnant people should be especially careful about long-term use of any medication since they are technically medicating for two, so consult with a physician if you feel like you cannot find relief from your symptoms. “If your allergies are not resolved [after taking Benadryl] more often than about four days per week, there may be a safer, more effective medication for you than Benadryl,” Wong says.

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

Although Benadryl is safe for use while pregnant, there are other over-the-counter medications that will address many allergy symptoms if you are looking for more options. These include Alavert/Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Allegra (fexofenadine), or steroid nasal sprays such as Flonase, Nasonex, or Rhinocort.

Pregnancy-safe home remedies can also help soothe allergy symptoms without the use of drugs. These therapies include washing nostrils with sterile water and placing petroleum jelly (Vaseline) around the opening of your nostrils to ease a dry nose. Try gargling with salt water to help relieve a sore or scratchy throat. For bothersome itchy nose and eyes, use saline nasal drops or saline eye drops.

You can also run a humidifier in your home to moisten the air and soothe irritated nasal passages. If you’re having a hard time resting at night because of allergy symptoms, keep the humidifier on in your bedroom overnight.

Limiting your exposure to allergens such as mold, pollen, and animal dander may lessen allergy triggers as well. This may mean staying indoors when the pollen count is highest in your area, or getting your home professionally cleaned to reduce animal dander and get rid of mold.

A Word from Verywell

It can be miserable trying to endure allergies without intervention. If you're pregnant and needing relief from allergy symptoms, it is generally safe to take Benadryl to ease your sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. You'll just want to keep the side effects in mind.

You can also try homeopathic methods like saline drops to ease some of the symptoms. Either way, speak to a healthcare provider about allergy relief options, whether it's trying non-medical alternatives or taking an antihistamine like Benadryl.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. American Family Physician. Over the Counter Medications in Pregnancy.

  4. Weiler JM, Bloomfield JR, Woodworth GG, et al. Effects of fexofenadine, diphenhydramine, and alcohol on driving performance. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial in the Iowa driving simulatorAnn Intern Med. 2000;132(5):354-363. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-132-5-200003070-00004

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By Vicky Yip
Vicky is a freelance writer specializing on topics relating to prenatal care, motherhood, parenting, family, and home life. She is also a Senior Contributor for HoustonMoms (City Mom Collective).