Xanax, or alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine medication that treats short-term anxiety. Benzodiazepines prolong the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter that carries signals between neurons. In patients with anxiety, this has an almost immediate calming effect. The drug can also be used in pregnant women with seizure disorders. However, safer drugs are typically prescribed during pregnancy due to the risks that come with benzodiazepine use.
Regular misuse of Xanax can cause physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. A pregnant woman misusing Xanax can pass on physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms in her baby when it is born.
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can cause medical emergencies such as seizures, so the withdrawal process should happen with the support of a trained medical professional in a structured environment. In general, it is not safe to stop benzodiazepines “cold turkey.” Withdrawal must occur very slowly with all benzodiazepines.
Xanax Use During Pregnancy
Xanax and pregnancy are an unsafe combination. The drug has been shown to cause congenital disabilities and withdrawal symptoms, so doctors will usually not prescribe Xanax for seizures or anxiety in a pregnant woman. The safety risks rarely outweigh the benefit and there are safer options available for both anxiety and seizures.
Instead of taking Xanax, talk to your doctor about alternative methods for treating anxiety problems. They may recommend selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which have shown to be safer options for reducing anxiety. Psychotherapy options like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can also help expecting mothers deal with anxiety.
Xanax Born Babies
A baby born while the mother is using or misusing Xanax may have the drug present in its system. If so, it will experience withdrawal after long-term exposure to Xanax. Babies do not metabolize most drugs as easily as adults do.
Management of benzodiazepine withdrawal for a newborn is similar to the management for opioid withdrawal. The baby will probably have an extended hospital stay and require a team of specially trained pediatricians to manage the safe withdrawal and detox of Xanax.
Symptoms of Xanax Withdrawal
If a baby is born while the mother is misusing benzodiazepines, the newborn may still have the drug present in its system. Symptoms of Xanax intoxication in a newborn include:
- Poor feeding
- Slow (or absent) reflexes
As the baby’s liver clears and metabolizes the drug, the baby may experience symptoms of withdrawal if the mother has been taking Xanax for longer periods of time. Some symptoms include:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Regurgitation, or spitting up
- Sensitivity to noise or light
Short-Term Effects of Xanax Withdrawal
After the initial detox and withdrawal, the baby may require treatment for neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The type and amount of treatment will depend on the mother’s level and extent of drug use. Treatment for NAS begins in the hospital and is started by the pediatric care team. Babies with NAS usually require extra care and attention for weeks or months.
Long-Term Effects of Xanax Withdrawal
Xanax misuse also puts the baby at risk for long-term complications. Some of these include:
- Birth defects
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Problems with development and behavior
- Small head circumference
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Xanax After Birth
For pregnant women, anxiety is common. Xanax is not safe to take during pregnancy, but you should not ignore anxious feelings. Untreated anxiety disorder causes health problems in mothers and infants.
For example, anxiety can prevent you from eating properly, which can prevent an unborn child from receiving sufficient nutrients during breastfeeding.
Xanax is an option during breastfeeding, but it is not very safe and can pass through breast milk.
Xanax and 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.
Though it is still full of risks, Xanax is considered one of the safest benzodiazepines in nursing mothers because it is metabolized quicker than other options. Other benzodiazepines can stay in the body for weeks or months, continually releasing into the breast milk.
In general, however, benzodiazepines are unsafe in any amount for developing babies.
Key Points: Xanax, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding
- Xanax is used to treat anxiety and seizure disorders
- Xanax is unsafe for use in pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Mothers misusing Xanax (with or without a prescription) are putting their baby at risk
- Using Xanax during pregnancy can cause the baby to be born with physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms
- Xanax passes through breast milk and should not be used while breastfeeding
- Anxiety and depression should be treated while pregnant and nursing
- Talk to your doctor about safer treatment options
Pregnant women addicted to Xanax must not suddenly stop using the drug. When struggling with addiction, quitting Xanax cold turkey can cause permanent harm. Instead of abruptly quitting, talk to a doctor about your situation. They will likely create a plan for gradually tapering off the substance, which reduces the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms.
If you or someone you know struggles with Xanax misuse, call The Recovery Village today. At our facilities, trained medical professionals can assist you in reducing substance use. Each patient receives a treatment plan catered to his or her specific needs. With many locations across the United States, The Recovery Village can provide you a professional, secure environment where you can safely heal and begin recovery.
National Library of Medicine. “Alprazolam.” April 2019. Accessed May 20, 2019. MedlinePlus. “Alprazolam: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” 2017. Accessed May 20, 2019. MedlinePlus. “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome” 2016. Accessed May 20, 2019. Ordean, Alice, and Chisamore, Brian. “Clinical Presentation and Management of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome: An Update.” Research and Reports in Neonatology, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2019.
National Library of Medicine. “Alprazolam.” April 2019. Accessed May 20, 2019.
MedlinePlus. “Alprazolam: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” 2017. Accessed May 20, 2019.
MedlinePlus. “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome” 2016. Accessed May 20, 2019.
Ordean, Alice, and Chisamore, Brian. “Clinical Presentation and Management of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome: An Update.” Research and Reports in Neonatology, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2019.