Taking benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax) or lorazepam (Ativan) while pregnant is generally not recommended. This includes cases of prescribed use and drug misuse.
However, there are exceptions to this. Some benzodiazepine drugs may be used during pregnancy if a doctor determines that the perceived benefits outweigh potential risks.
Risks Of Benzodiazepine Use During Pregnancy
Research shows that taking benzodiazepine drugs while pregnant carries multiple risks that could affect fetal development and growth.
Potential risks of benzodiazepine use during pregnancy include:
- low birth-weight
- preterm birth
- neonatal flaccidity
- fetal respiratory problems
- lower gestational age
- congenital abnormalities
- birth defects
- neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)
All benzodiazepine drugs cross the placenta and the blood-brain barrier.
Taking benzodiazepines while pregnant could affect fetal development, delivery, and may cause the development of withdrawal symptoms in babies after birth.
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Safety Of Benzodiazepines While Pregnant
Different types of benzodiazepines are associated with varying health risks when taken during pregnancy.
Many benzodiazepines are classified as category D for pregnancy, meaning they may be used if potential benefits outweigh the risks. There are some benzos that are classified as category X.
Category X benzodiazepines drugs (least safe during pregnancy) include:
- triazolam (Halcion)
- temazepam (Restoril)
- estazolam (ProSom)
- flurazepam (Dalmane)
- quazepam (Doral)
Drugs that are classified as category X have a heightened risk of causing serious pregnancy complications. Talk to a doctor if you are taking one of these medications and become pregnant.
Factors That Can Affect The Safety Of Benzo Use During Pregnancy
Various personal, biological, and environmental factors can affect the risk of experiencing benzodiazepine-related complications during pregnancy.
These factors include:
- dose taken
- frequency of use
- type of benzodiazepine
- polysubstance use
- substance abuse
- drug addiction
- overall health
- external stressors
Benzodiazepine use during the first trimester in particular has been associated with an elevated risk for effects on fetal development. Taking high doses or misusing benzos may increase this risk.
Benzodiazepine Abuse And Pregnancy
Substance abuse and substance use disorders can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and may introduce added risks, including severe neonatal withdrawal.
Symptoms of neonatal benzodiazepine withdrawal can include:
- disrupted sleep
- absent reflexes
- poor suckling
- loose stools
- rapid breathing
Babies born to mothers who misuse benzodiazepines can be at risk for severe withdrawal shortly after birth, including seizures. Other complications during breastfeeding may also occur.
Who Might Be Prescribed Benzodiazepines During Pregnancy?
Benzodiazepines are prescribed or administered during pregnancy under select circumstances, and only if the perceived benefits are determined to outweigh potential health risks.
Potential uses for benzos during pregnancy include:
- tapering off benzodiazepines following chronic use
- treating opioid or alcohol withdrawal
- use of long-acting benzodiazepines to treat short-acting benzo dependence
Benzodiazepine use during pregnancy isn’t risk-free, no matter the reason it’s taken.
If you’re taking a benzodiazepine and become pregnant, it’s best to talk to a doctor about alternative treatment options.
What To Do If You Become Pregnant While Taking Benzodiazepines
Talking to your doctor about your drug use is the first step you should take upon learning you’ve become pregnant.
If you’ve been misusing benzodiazepines, or have become addicted, they may suggest a treatment program.
Some drug and alcohol treatment centers offer specialty drug rehab programs for pregnant patients, which include added prenatal care and specialty health services.
Treatment for substance abuse during pregnancy may involve:
- prenatal care
- medical supervision
- medication management
- behavioral therapy
- psychiatric services
- addiction and parenting education
- group therapy
- holistic therapies
Treating drug addiction while pregnant is possible. Getting help begins with acknowledging you have a problem and talking to a doctor or addiction specialist about your treatment options.
Call Today To Find Benzo Treatment Options During Pregnancy
If you or a loved one is abusing or addicted to benzodiazepines while pregnant, we may be able to help you find a treatment program that’s right for you.
You’re not alone. Call our helpline today to find a benzodiazepine addiction treatment program at a rehab center near you.
Published on June 16, 2021
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- American Family Physician — ACOG Guidelines on Psychiatric Medication use During Pregnancy and Lactation
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Pregnant Women Report Taking Medicines for Anxiety and Other Mental Health Conditions
- JAMA Network — Associations of Maternal Use of Benzodiazepines or Benzodiazepine-like Hypnotics During Pregnancy With Immediate Outcomes in Norway
- Research and Reports in Neonatology — Clinical presentation and management of neonatal abstinence syndrome
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: PubMed — Effects of commonly used benzodiazepines on the fetus, the neonate, and the nursing infant
- U.S. National Library of Medicine — THE TREATMENT OF ALCOHOL AND OPIOID DEPENDENCE IN PREGNANT WOMEN