Can You Take Ativan While Pregnant?

Every year, nearly  half a million women who are pregnant in the United States suffer from a mental health disorder like depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety. Before they became pregnant they may have used a prescription medication to treat their mental health disorder but it isn’t recommended that pregnant women  take these medications during a pregnancy. However, women who struggle with an anxiety disorder and don’t receive treatment may experience many difficult phases during pregnancy, and pregnant women with untreated mental health disorders are more likely to suffer a miscarriage or deliver prematurely.

Ativan is the brand name of lorazepam, a generic benzodiazepine. Ativan can be used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It’s also effective for treating patients with acute anxiety disorders. Women with acute anxiety disorders who  take Ativan, or are considering taking Ativan as a treatment option, should be concerned about becoming pregnant while regularly taking the drug. When Ativan and other benzodiazepine medications are prescribed to pregnant women there is a possibility for complications during pregnancy and after birth.

Ativan is one of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine medications in the United States. Benzodiazepines work by slowing down neurons in the brain, which causes patients to experience a relaxing effect. Ativan is intended to be used as a short-term treatment for symptoms like acute anxiety. Depending on the mother’s medical history, doctors may recommend using smaller doses of Ativan or suggest alternative options for treatment.

Ativan and Pregnancy: Benefits, Risks and Alternatives

How Can Ativan Affect Your Baby?

Continuing to take Ativan during pregnancy could cause serious risks and complications for both the mother and child. If the substance is taken during pregnancy, it can increase the chances of birth defects.The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued strong warning against taking Ativan during pregnancy, specifically citing the risk of damage to the fetus. A child exposed to Ativan while in the womb may exhibit withdrawal symptoms, like sedation or labored breathing, upon birth.

The greatest risk of complications are typically during the first trimester, but according to one study, the use of benzodiazepines in the third trimester can cause the most problems for the infant. In addition to the risks and complications for the unborn baby, the mother may also experience some threats to her health if she chooses to take Ativan during pregnancy. The substance is meant to be taken as a short-term medication, typically no more than for two weeks, because it can become addictive. Taking Ativan after the recommended short time period of use, the body can quickly build up a tolerance to the drug, which can lead to frequent misuse and eventually addiction.

Babies Born Addicted to Ativan

In most studies that associate with benzodiazepine use during the first trimester, most of the  babies born had a normal birth and had normal postnatal development. Some infants exposed to benzodiazepines during the third trimester, however, experienced hypotonia (also known as floppy infant syndrome) or exhibited neonatal withdrawal symptoms. Other conditions infants may develop due to benzodiazepines use during pregnancy are:

  • Mild sedation
  • Reluctance to nurse
  • Apnoeic incidents
  • Cyanosis
  • Impaired metabolic responses

The duration of these symptoms could last from hours to months after the baby is born.

According to Drugs.com, the United States FDA provides a risk summary on lorazepam medications, including Ativan. The risk summary states that the use of the drug during pregnancy may increase the risk of fetal malformations and withdrawal symptoms. There are also breastfeeding warnings regarding the use of Ativan following pregnancy. Taking Ativan is not recommended for nursing mothers because the drug has been found to be present in the mother’s milk.

 Prolonged exposure to benzodiazepines while nursing can be a concern for the health of the infant, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Mothers that are using benzodiazepines and nursing, should ensure that their infant is observed for pharmacological effects like sedation and irritability.

Alternatives to Taking Ativan While Pregnant

Pregnant women who suffer from an anxiety disorder may see their symptoms intensify during pregnancy. A pregnant woman who is using Ativan shouldn’t abruptly stop taking it because quitting cold turkey could result in experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. Some alternatives that professionals suggest are clinical and recreational therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to be an effective clinical alternative. Some recreational therapies like yoga, meditation, aromatherapy and massage, can also offer some relief to pregnant women without posing any risks of complications or birth defects.

Pregnant women struggling with an anxiety disorder can also research alternative medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, could provide much-needed anxiety relief without causing the potential adverse side effects of Ativan or other benzodiazepines drugs. It’s important when choosing an alternative anxiety medication to find one that is effective and has a good safety profile. The safest option is to stop taking Ativan or other benzodiazepines but sometimes it’s just not an option. It is critical that women with anxiety disorders be monitored throughout their pregnancy whether they are taking medications or not.

Just as raising a child is a unique and individual experience, deciding whether or not to stop the use of Ativan during pregnancy is something that should be decided between the pregnant woman and her doctor. This conversation should ideally occur before conception but if that’s not the case, the mother should contact her physician as soon as possible. The earlier a plan is created to keep the mother and baby healthy, the better.

If you or someone you love is pregnant and struggling with anxiety, or can’t stop using Ativan or other benzodiazepines, call and speak with one of our representatives today. The health of the mother and baby comes first and seeking help can’t wait, recovery is possible.

Taking Ativan During Pregnancy: What You Need to Know
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