Taking Valium while pregnant can increase a baby’s risk of side effects, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before using this medication during pregnancy.
When a woman becomes pregnant, many things can affect the fetus growing in her womb. This includes foods and beverages as well as over-the-counter drugs, prescription medications and illegal drugs. Because the fetus is so sensitive during its development, doctors will carefully weigh the benefits and risks of medications before prescribing them.
Some women may need to remain on prescription drugs during their pregnancy because the medications help them function in their daily lives. For example, a pregnant woman may need to continue taking Valium to treat their anxiety.
Valium is a prescription medication that is FDA-approved to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, seizures and other conditions. It is classified as a benzodiazepine and is a Schedule IV controlled substance.
If you are pregnant or planning to be and wonder if you can take Valium, speak with your doctor. It remains unclear whether Valium causes health risks to the fetus, so it is generally not recommended for use during pregnancy. However, your doctor may determine that the benefits of using Valium during pregnancy outweigh the possible risks.
Effects of Valium on a Fetus
In the past, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified benzodiazepines like Valium as Category D drugs. This rating meant the FDA believed there was evidence that Valium could put an unborn baby at risk. The Category D rating was given because data from older studies showed that taking benzos during pregnancy led to a higher rate of fetal malformations, such as cleft palate.
The FDA changed the pregnancy rating system in 2014 and removed the old pregnancy categories. At the same time, doctors continued studying how benzodiazepines affected fetuses during pregnancy. These newer studies found no clear link between benzodiazepines and the risk of fetal malformations. Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that even if a link existed, it might not be due to benzodiazepines. Rather, malformations may be caused by the medical condition the benzodiazepine was prescribed to treat.
Valium Side Effects in a Newborn
If a pregnant woman takes Valium during the late third trimester, the baby may be at risk of side effects when it is born. These side effects include:
- Slowed breathing
- Problems feeding
Symptoms of Valium Withdrawal and Toxicity in Newborns
When a pregnant woman takes Valium on a regular basis, it is possible for the fetus to become addicted to the drug. Babies born addicted to Valium can have symptoms that interfere with their development, including:
- Absent reflexes
- Problems suckling
When a baby exposed to Valium during pregnancy stops getting the drug after it is born, it can go into withdrawal. Withdrawal is especially common in babies whose mothers used benzos like Valium over the long term. Valium withdrawal symptoms in a newborn can last several months, and they may include:
- Being easily startled
Valium and Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is not recommended for women who take Valium because the drug passes into breast milk. If you take Valium and are planning on breastfeeding, make sure to talk to your doctor about alternatives.
Quitting Valium Safely
If you are currently taking Valium and no longer want to use the medication, do not adjust your treatment schedule without instruction from your doctor. In most cases, doctors will taper off a patient’s Valium dose to minimize the risk of withdrawal. Symptoms associated with Valium withdrawal can include:
- Stomach pains
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Mood swings
- Rebound anxiety
- Drug cravings
These withdrawal symptoms can negatively affect a pregnant woman’s health, as well as the health of their fetus. For these reasons, tapering off Valium is very important for pregnant women in particular.
If you or someone you love is struggling with Valium use and a co-occurring mental health condition like anxiety, help is available. The Recovery Village has locations throughout the country, and each offers helpful addiction recovery resources to those looking to live a healthier, substance-free life. Contact us today to learn more about Valium addiction treatment programs that can work well for your needs.
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National Center for PTSD. “Effective Treatments for PTSD: Helping Patients Taper from Benzodiazepines.” January 2015. Accessed November 11, 2021.
Drugs.com. “Valium.” October 22, 2021. Accessed November 11, 2021.
PsychDB. “Sedative, Hypnotic, or Anxiolytic (Benzodiazepine) Withdrawal.” March 29, 2021. Accessed November 11, 2021.
Armstrong, Carrie. “ACOG Guidelines on Psychiatric Medication Use During Pregnancy and Lactation.” American Family Physician, September 15, 2008. Accessed November 11, 2021.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “FDA Pregnancy Categories.” August 16, 2021. Accessed November 11, 2021.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Pregnant? Breastfeeding? Better Drug Information Is Coming.” December 17, 2014. Accessed November 11, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Pregnant Women Report Taking Medicines for Anxiety and Other Mental Health Conditions.” December 9, 2020. Accessed November 11, 2021.
Ordean, Alice; Chisamore, Brian C. “Clinical presentation and management of neonatal abstinence syndrome: an update.” Research and Reports in Neonatology, April 9, 2014. Accessed November 11, 2021.
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