My Ambien Blackout / A Birth Story

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I was lying awake last night unable to sleep and considered getting out of bed to take a sleeping pill. I’ve taken sleeping pills more often than I like lately, and it seems to have been brought on by my allergy medication, believe it or not. The allergy medicine used to make me drowsy, so I would take it before bed and would have no trouble sleeping…at least, for a few weeks. Then after a while, the medicine seemed to lose it’s ability to make me sleep, so I would sometimes take a sleeping pill. (Maybe 2 times a week.) Last night, after getting up to pop my sleeping pill at 3am because I so desperately needed sleep before my morning students, I decided to do a little Google research on sleeping pill addiction and breaking the cycle of taking them. That’s when I ran across a lot of people who had experiences on the prescription sleep aid Ambien.

I’ve taken Ambien only once in my life.

At around 9 pm on February 9th, 2011, I started having contractions. (I was pregnant and due on February 13th.) I went to bed. I slept for a while and at around 3am I woke up because the contractions were growing mildly stronger. I started timing these contractions from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next contraction like I was taught to by Dr. Google. During this time, I packed my clothes and things for the hospital while I let my husband sleep. I did my hair. I put on waterproof mascara. The contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, but were not yet painful so I walked around the house and did some light cleaning. I had not yet told him that I was having contractions.  By about 4am the contractions were growing quite uncomfortable and were only 1 minute apart. Yes, 1 minute. A quick Google check told me that I should be at the hospital. Oops.  I woke up my husband and he nervously drove me to the hospital while I groaned through contractions which felt more or less like really bad cramps.

We got to Abington Hospital just before 5am and they immediately sent me to triage and hooked me up to a machine that was supposed to monitor the contractions. I told them that the contractions were 1 minute apart, with only about 15 seconds from the end of one to the start of the next. Still, they needed the machine to give them the facts. The machine wasn’t working and in order for the circular sensor to detect my contractions I needed to have it very tight and NOT MOVE. Nurses kept returning to mess with it and try to get it to work, tightening it tighter and tighter while I continued to complain of how much it was making my back hurt just to lie in that position. The elastic band they strapped around my huge belly was uncomfortable from the start, but as the contractions grew stronger and that 15 second break was sometimes as little as 5 seconds, the whole situation started to become very painful after a couple of hours. (Yes, they forced me to stay on the non-working monitor for hours.) With each contraction, it felt like a sharp knife was stabbing into my tailbone and pain was radiating up my back. I tried to hold it together, but I was becoming fatigued from the contractions and the inability to move into a comfortable position to cope with the pain.

Between nurse visits to check my cervix’s dilation and to make that stupid elastic monitor ever tighter, I could hear the triage nurses at the office area talking about how I was complaining too much and crying too much.

Eventually, the pain became nearly unbearable and I began to sob with my hands over my face during the strongest part of each contraction. They “checked” and said I was still only about 3 cm dilated. The nurses let me walk around the halls around 7 or 8am.  Finally, I was set free from that ridiculous elastic band and being forced to lie on my back. Walking didn’t take the pain away. I was still stopping with each contraction and holding onto the side railing in the hallway because the pain had become so sharp. It was difficult to stand up.

At around 9am, they checked my cervix again (during contractions, which was extremely painful). They told me that I needed to stop crying because “IT’S GOING TO GET A LOT WORSE“, said one nurse. And “IT’S DIFFICULT FOR YOUR HUSBAND TO WAIT HERE AND WATCH YOU LIKE THIS.” Really? This is difficult for my husband, who is sitting in the corner napping while I deal with the pain? I just nodded my head reluctantly, but would replay her words in my head for years after and imagine myself giving her a snappy verbal reply rather than a submissive nod.

So they GAVE ME TWO AMBIEN pills. And sent me home, telling me to try to sleep. 

I remember leaning on the valet parking stool and sobbing during contractions with fluid running down my bare leg under my maternity dress as my husband retrieved our car. The February air felt so cold as the door opened and closed, and the valet attendant asked,”Are you sure they asked you to go home?”

I don’t remember when I took the ambien pills. I may have taken them while at the hospital, or perhaps it was when we got home. I don’t remember the drive home. When we got in the house, I took off all of my clothes and ran a hot bath and got in. And cried very loudly. I had the phone in the bathtub with me, and I called my mom, or she called me, I don’t know which. I sobbed into the phone with the contractions, but was unable to talk. And I don’t remember any of this. I don’t remember going into the house. I don’t remember the bath. I have a very faint memory of trying to hand the phone to my husband and it falling on the floor, then realizing that I may of thrown the phone, but I’m not sure.

When my husband took the phone, my mom told him to take me back to the hospital. “It’s only been about 45 minutes at home”, he said. Mom said, “Take her back!” I don’t remember him getting me out of the tub or getting me dressed, but he did. I know he put socks on my feet, because I remember having them on the next day and not realizing how they got on my feet.

He took me back to the hospital, where I have a memory of crying while the valet attendant put me in a wheelchair and they wheeled me back up to triage while I screamed, “They don’t want me here! Take me home! I don’t want to be on the monitor!” I said this over and over again…and I don’t remember much else about that visit to triage. They checked my cervix and…..voila! The nurse said it was at “7 or 8″. I was quickly taken and given the epidural that I wished to have, and the pain went away! Yay! As soon as I wasn’t violently crying, I was hungry. My husband gave me a pop tart from my bag. I was starving. The nurse came in and promptly told me that I cannot eat anything. Like a prisoner, I relinquished the sugary pastry. Then I fell asleep. (11:30am)

Around 4:30pm a nurse woke me up, and informed me that they were turning down the epidural now so that I could feel the contractions. I was surprised at how quickly the medicine ‘wore off’.  After some pushing and an emergency “baby is coming any minute” call to my doctor, followed by a very serious “HOLD THE BABY IN JUST A MOMENT WHILE HE GETS HIS GLOVES ON” and an equally serious, “Baby is coming NOW!” from me, at 5:07pm, Zoey was born.

After reading about people taking Ambien both as a recreational drug and as a medication for insomnia, I’ve come to the conclusion that to take 2 pills is neither safe nor recommended. Before then, I’d never taken a sleeping pill or even heard of Ambien.

WebRx says:  The risk of next-day psychomotor impairment, including impaired driving, is increased if Ambien is taken with less than a full night of sleep remaining (7- to 8 hours); if a higher than the recommended dose is taken; if co-administered with other CNS depressants; or if coadministered with other drugs that increase the blood levels of zolpidem.

Should I be concerned that I was given TWICE the dosage of Ambien on an empty stomach, followed by an epidural, allowed to sleep for 5 hours, gave birth, then was handed a newborn baby in this somewhat delirious state?

WebRx also lists Ambien as a “Category C” drug for pregnant women…meaning that it probably won’t kill your baby…but it could, maybe.

Web Rx: Pregnancy Category C

There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of Ambien in pregnant women.

Studies in children to assess the effects of prenatal exposure to zolpidem have not been conducted; however, cases of severe neonatal respiratory depression have been reported when zolpidem was used at the end of pregnancy, especially when taken with other CNS-depressants.

Administration of zolpidem to pregnant rats and rabbits resulted in adverse effects on offspring development at doses greater than the Ambien maximum recommended human dose (MRHD) of 10 mg/day.

Should I be concerned that I took 20mg of Ambien?

Web Rx says THIS under “Labor and Delivery”:   Ambien has no established use in labor and delivery.

After reading so many blog posts on BabyCenter about women who are given Ambien during labor, I saw that the women who were in early labor with contractions that were 5-10 minutes apart were able to sleep, but women who were in a lot of pain  could not sleep but just became erratic and loopy. It doesn’t seem like a good drug choice if the contractions are intense.

I guess I should just consider myself lucky that I wasn’t in that 3% of the population that gets diarrhea as an Ambien side effect.

Here are some funny Ambien Walrus images that I didn’t draw but enjoy:





































One thought on “My Ambien Blackout / A Birth Story”

  1. WOW. That is terrifying! I’m glad you and Zoey are okay. I can’t believe they gave you two Ambien and sent you home!

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