Xanax during Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

by on May 23, 2012

Xanax, also known as alprazolam, is a medication that is prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders in millions of people across the nation. However, using Xanax during pregnancy and breastfeeding is a practice that is best avoided in order to preserve the health of the unborn child or infant.

Xanax, like Valium, Ativan and Clonazepam, belongs to a class of medications known as benzodiazepines. These medications are primarily used to treat panic attacks and anxiety disorders, though medications within the same class have been successfully used in seizure patients and to treat insomnia. Women who suffer from any of these conditions and who are prescribed Xanax or other drugs like it should speak with their physicians prior to becoming pregnant or as soon as they discover they are pregnant. This is because thousands of medications are known to enter the bloodstreams of unborn babies and cause birth defects, low birth weight or even stillbirth.

Use during Pregnancy

When it comes to using Xanax during pregnancy, the medication has been assigned to pregnancy category D by the FDA, meaning that there is positive evidence of risk to the fetus.

This is especially true if the medication is used in moderate to large quantities during the first trimester of pregnancy. Patients who become pregnant while being treated with Xanax should work with their health care providers in order to taper off of the medication or at least reduce the amount being consumed. Like other medications in the class, pregnant women should only take Xanax if the benefits of the medication clearly outweigh any of the potential risks to the unborn baby.

Effects on Newborns

Babies who are born to mothers who took Xanax in the days prior to birth will often have trace to moderate amounts of the drug in their bloodstreams. Hospitals and pediatricians have reported that infants in this situation often appear lethargic and cry less than usual during their first few days of life before becoming irritable and difficult to console for several hours to days. There are very few serious side effects associated with this, though respiratory difficulty and low blood pressure do occur on occasion.

These infants are typically placed in neonatal intensive care units for close monitoring until the effects subside, and they almost always go on to live happy, healthy and normal lives.

Xanax and Breastfeeding

Mothers who stop taking Xanax while pregnant often have questions about taking the drug while nursing a child. It should be noted that all benzodiazepines cross into breast milk and can therefore be ingested by a newborn in very small amounts. Though these dosages are usually not lethal, they can cause sedation and severe respiratory issues. Nursing women who take a single low dose of Xanax during breastfeeding can simply dispose of their breast milk over the course of eight hours in order to ensure it is completely out of their systems before breastfeeding resumes.

Since Xanax is such a well-known and commonly prescribed medication, many women incorrectly assume that it is completely safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Women who choose to use Xanax during pregnancy should be monitored for any issues that may arise.