Is it safe to take barbiturates while pregnant?

Barbiturates are a type of as sedative-hypnotic that are used to treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. Barbiturates are central nervous system depressants that can cause sleepiness and decrease symptoms of anxiety by inducing a calming effect. Barbiturates are widely distributed and have a high risk for substance abuse; therefore, it is important to carefully follow the dosage guidelines in order to reduce the risk of abuse.

While barbiturates are regularly used for their anti-anxiety effects, taking them during pregnancy can be dangerous. Many studies have linked barbiturate use to birth defects, infant dependency on the drug, and other health issues. Many women are advised to stop taking barbiturates while they pregnant. However, barbiturates are misused and abused even during pregnancy.

Will taking barbiturates cause birth defects?

The FDA assigned barbiturates as Category D drugs, meaning there is data that supports a higher chance of birth defects when pregnant women take the drugs. Pregnant women who take barbiturates are reported to experience fetal complications like birth defects.

Barbiturates are sometimes used to treat seizures, and the anti-epileptic effects of the drugs are dangerous for the fetus. The Epilepsy Foundation reported that women who abuse barbiturates have a higher risk – around five to eight percent – for fetal malformations like Cleft lip, a defect causing an opening in the upper lip, or Cleft palate, an opening in the roof of the mouth.

Another adverse health effect that barbiturates can have on the fetus is Hemorrhagic Disease, which is a deficiency of Vitamin K. Barbiturates hinder Vitamin K from reaching the baby, and Vitamin K is vital as it forms blood clotting factors. Infants may experience severe bleeding during the first 24 hours after being born if they have Hemorrhagic Disease.

Other birth defects caused by barbiturate use while pregnant include irregular cardiac rhythms and abnormalities, spinal cord defects, and a large space between the eyes (hypertelorism). Brain tumors, although less likely to occur, have a higher chance of developing as well.

Babies born addicted to barbiturates

If someone is addicted to barbiturates and continues taking them during the last few months of pregnancy, they are increasing the risk of infant addiction, which can result in withdrawal symptoms at birth and behavioral problems.

Symptoms of Barbiturate addiction among infants include:

  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Respiratory distress
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Intense sweating

Alternative drugs to manage epilepsy while pregnant

If someone must take epilepsy medication while pregnant, it is crucial for them to discuss every possible option with their doctor. Most epilepsy medications have an increased risk for certain fetal complications; however, some do pose a lesser risk, fewer side effects, and more minor, easily treated complications. Finding the right epilepsy medication while you or someone else is pregnant is possible and doesn’t always result in fetal complications.

Overcoming barbiturate addiction is challenging but possible. At the Recovery Village, we offer a variety of treatment plans as well as medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and taking barbiturates while pregnant, reach out to one of our representatives by calling our 24/7, confidential hotline at 855-408-0950.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.