Taking Xanax While Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know

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Caring for a newborn can cause stress and anxiety for many women, especially new mothers who already struggle with a mental illness like anxiety disorder. To alleviate their symptoms and balance hormonal changes, some women take prescription medications like Xanax, even while breastfeeding.

Most substances a new mother consumes, including medications like Xanax, can pass to her baby through breast milk. If a nursing mother ingests Xanax, so does her baby, and this kind of drug can be potentially harmful to a newborn. However, given that the benefits of Xanax for the mother may outweigh the potential harms to her infant, a woman should consult with her primary care doctor or pediatrician about using Xanax.

Essentially, Xanax is not an entirely safe anxiety medication while breastfeeding, but it may prove beneficial for a nursing mother, with her doctor’s approval. If a mother needs to use Xanax, a wise choice would be to bottle-feed her infant to ensure their health and safety.

Xanax, the brand name of the drug alprazolam, is a popular prescription benzodiazepine meant to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Benzodiazepines enhance the function of neurotransmitters that stabilize brain activity, fear responses and recurrent thought patterns. For women who have anxiety disorders, Xanax helps regulate difficult, fear-based emotions and generates feelings of calm and relaxation within minutes of use.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies prescription medications by their level of risk during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Drugs in category A are the safest to take while breastfeeding, and medications in categories B and C may potentially harm infants. The drugs in category D — the class of drugs before category X, which contains drugs that cause birth defects — are proven to cause fetal risk, but the benefits to the mother may outweigh the risks to the infant. The FDA currently classifies Xanax as a category D medication when used while breastfeeding, meaning there is a chance of risk to a nursing baby, although some mothers may still take the drug with a doctor’s approval.

While Xanax use may be recommended for some breastfeeding women, its use is still risky. Since Xanax can be secreted from breast milk, breastfeeding while using this drug can mean that a baby may experience the same effects that the mother does. A baby’s body cannot process Xanax like an adult’s body can, so an excess of Xanax in breast milk could cause a baby to experience sedation and low energy, among other dangerous side effects.

Ultimately, it’s up to a new mother and her doctor to determine whether Xanax is a necessary medication to take while breastfeeding, and if so, whether the baby should be breastfed or fed with baby formula.

Taking Xanax While Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know
In general, Xanax is not a long-lasting drug. Its powerful sedative effects provide immediate relief from panic and anxiety. The medication ceases to be active in the body after about four hours, depending on the dosage. However, the half-life (how long it takes the body to eliminate the drug completely) of Xanax can range from nine to 16 hours, with an average of 12 hours. Given each pill’s half-life, it normally takes up to four days for nursing mother’s body to fully process Xanax.

The amount of Xanax taken, how frequently it is used and the use of other drugs can all impact the length of time that Xanax stays in a woman’s body. Several other factors that influence how long Xanax stays in the body include:

  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Liver health
  • Kidney health
  • Metabolism
  • Urinary pH
  • Genetics
If a new mother uses Xanax while breastfeeding, the baby can experience many of the same effects of the medication, but their fragile immune system may not be able to cope with these effects. Babies who consume Xanax through breast milk may experience potentially harmful side effects, including:

  • Extreme sedation
  • Increased drowsiness
  • Increased irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Withdrawal (if the mother took Xanax while pregnant)

For nursing mothers, a side effect of Xanax use is that this drug may potentially impact milk production. Xanax can raise the levels of prolactin in a woman’s body, increasing her breast milk supply. However, prolific prolactin may also mean decreased progesterone, which can disrupt a woman’s normal hormone levels and moods.

Although Xanax is an effective remedy for the physical and mental symptoms of panic, it’s not the only answer to anxiety treatment. In fact, anxiety disorders can often be managed without the use of any medications, and there are always alternatives to taking Xanax while breastfeeding.

Talk therapy is one of the most effective approaches to treating anxiety disorder, and it is a viable alternative to taking Xanax or other benzodiazepines, especially for women who breastfeed their infants. Meeting regularly with a psychiatrist or therapist can help relieve the symptoms of this disorder, reducing the need for anxiety medication while breastfeeding.

Other holistic and healthy ways for new mothers to cope with anxiety can include:

  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Exercising regularly
  • Practicing yoga
  • Diet modification
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal remedies

If you face a Xanax addiction, or know someone who does, don’t wait to seek treatment. The Recovery Village offers comprehensive, compassionate rehab care at accredited facilities across the country, so you’re never too far from the help you deserve. Being nervous about treatment is normal, but you don’t have to suffer in silence. Many of The Recovery Village’s representatives are in recovery, and they are always available to talk with you about your options. Calling The Recovery Village at 866-789-3873 is toll-free, confidential and there is no obligation to commit to treatment. Reach out today to learn more about Xanax addiction treatment in your area.

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