Xanax, with the generic name alprazolam, is an anti-anxiety drug that is reasonably safe for most people. But for pregnant women, it may have damaging effects. Although research is inconclusive, talk with your doctor if you're taking Xanax and thinking about becoming pregnant. He may advise you to stop taking Xanax and suggest ways to wean yourself from the drug. He may also have alternative treatments for your anxiety, which a pregnancy could heighten.
Xanax is a benzodiazepine prescribed for the treatment of adult anxiety and panic disorder. The likelihood of dependence is high, according to the drug label. Withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, insomnia, heightened sensory perception and weight loss. All of these side effects could have serious implications during a pregnancy, as they could affect the fetus.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration rates Xanax class D, meaning it is not safe for pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester. The FDA says that Xanax can cause congenital abnormalities in the fetus and and withdrawal symptoms after the baby is born.
Research partly contradicts the FDA's findings. An October 2005 "Medscape" paper reports that although one study found a positive correlation between benzodiazepine use in pregnant women and major fetal malformations including oral clefts, its methods were flawed. Other data, according to "Medscape," fail to support that benzodiazepines pose a significant risk of birth defects.
"Medscape" does warn that infants whose mothers take benzodiazepines such as Xanax during pregnancy demonstrate withdrawal effects including sedation, reluctance to suck, hyptonia and impaired metabolic response. Effects may be lessened if the mother tapers her dosage as the pregnancy comes to an end.
Long-term effects of fetal exposure to benzodiazepines have not been reported.
Anxiety during pregnancy is severely overlooked. According to a 2008 "Depression and Anxiety" study, only 20 percent of doctors screen their pregnant patients for anxiety. And yet, anxiety during pregnancy may result in premature birth and behavioral inhibition in infants, according to the study.
Pregnant women should report symptoms to their doctors or midwives immediately in order to get help. Together they can weigh the risks and the benefits of treating anxiety with Xanax.
Top alternative health magazine "Natural Solutions" recommends magnesium supplements, mind-body therapy and acupuncture as alternatives to Xanax. Massage and prenatal yoga may also help calm anxiety. Any pregnant woman considering alternative remedies should discuss symptoms and side effects with her doctor first.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Xanax Medication Guide
- Depression and Anxiety"; United States Obstetrician-Gynecologists' Screening Patterns for Anxiety During Pregnancy; V.H. Coleman, M.M. Carter, et al; 2008
- Natural Solutions: Reclaiming Calm
- "Depression and Anxiety"; United States Obstetrician-Gynecologists' Screening Patterns for Anxiety During Pregnancy; V.H. Coleman, M.M. Carter, et al; 2008
- PsychCentral: Top 25 Psychiatric Prescriptions for 2009