Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant have a lot of decisions to make. One of the most important of these is whether or not to continue or start taking benzodiazepines such as Xanax if they are diagnosed with a panic or anxiety disorder during their pregnancy.
An NPR article shows that some doctors used to believe birth defects were linked to Xanax. Thankfully, research has debunked this myth. Some doctors continue prescribing Xanax to pregnant women, and with the right supervision, taking Xanax might provide more benefits than setbacks. But the answer to this question depends on the person, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone. It is safe for some women to take Xanax into their pregnancy, but the doctor and patient must decide that the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
Beginning Xanax Use in Pregnancy
Some women may get pregnant before they are diagnosed with a problem that requires taking Xanax. In many cases, they can take the medication if it is crucial to their well-being.
Some experts caution that it is possible for the unborn baby to absorb Xanax during pregnancy. Mothers who are nursing may also pass it to their children.
The Food and Drug Administration says newly pregnant women should not be prescribed Xanax for their first trimester because it is not considered a “drug of urgency.”
When prescribing Xanax to a pregnant patient, doctors may give her the smallest dose necessaryto assist with whatever anxiety she is facing. A doctor may even decide to slowly taper their patient before having the baby so the child’s chance of experiencing withdrawal symptoms at birth is reduced.
Women can also help by letting their obstetrician know about their prescription medication use, so their nurse and pediatrician are aware of this after the baby is born. Like an adult, a baby can become tolerant of Xanax in the womb.
Continuing to Take Xanax in Pregnancy
What about women who have been taking Xanax before pregnancy? The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) mentions a few pointers women and their doctors should know.
- Little is still known about the effects of some medication (over the counter or prescribed) on pregnant women because it is not ethical to use pregnant women as subjects for scientific research.
- Pregnant women should discuss everything they take with their doctor, including vitamins, supplements, over-the-counter drugs, or prescription medication. This information will allow doctors to make better decisions for the mother and child.
- Some anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants still need to be researched for their effects on a child.
Because of this, women who are planning to have children should inform their doctors while they are trying. The doctor may advise women to not take Xanax during this time and recommend other approaches.
Recreational Use of Xanax During Pregnancy
NIDA mentions that recreational use of any drug is risky. The exact risks of Xanax use on a baby are not well-known, but doctors can monitor a newborn for withdrawal symptoms that are common in babies such as:
- Stalled weight gain
- Difficulty sleeping
Some infants exhibit these symptoms of withdrawal instantly, while it may take up to two weeks for some infants to exhibit symptoms.
Safe Dosage Information
Drug and Alcohol Information and Support mentions that Xanax is sold in standard doses of 0.25 mg and 0.5 mg when prescribed. Doctors will determine which of these doses is necessary for their patient.However, Xanax is an often misused medication, and some illicit forms of the pill are sold in pills of 1 or 2 mg.
What to Do if You Want to Stop Taking Xanax
Anyone who wants to stop using Xanax should discuss this with their doctor before quitting.
It goes without saying that pregnant women should be even more mindful of their plans with Xanax, considering the risk factors.
Doctors who prescribe Xanax often do this with the patient’s best interests in mind.
Whether using Xanax under medical supervision or for nonmedical reasons, newly pregnant women may decide they want to quit.
Quitting Xanax safely is best done under a doctor’s supervision. A doctor’s help is meant to decrease withdrawal symptoms, such as:
Santa Monica College (SMC) mentions that those who take benzodiazepines for eight weeks or longer run the risk of having seizures during withdrawal. Though this is not a likely scenario, quitting cold turkey may cause fatal withdrawal symptoms.
SMC recommends the following schedule for safe tapering, though it does not mention pregnant patients in this timetable:
- Less than six to eight weeks of Xanax use may not necessitate tapering, but if tapering is beneficial to the patient, the doctor may provide medication with a shorter half-life or reduce a patient’s dose.
- Eight weeks to six months of Xanax use may require a taper period of two to three weeks.
- Six months to one year of Xanax use may require tapering over four to eight weeks.
- More than one year of Xanax use may require tapering in two to four months.
If a woman is pregnant, it presents a more complex medical situation, so this tapering schedule will likely be modified and closely monitored. A pregnant woman should never stop Xanax suddenly without a doctor’s supervision.
A doctor’s main concern is to make sure the pregnant mother and child stay healthy and safe.