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Should You Take Xanax While Pregnant?

Expectant mothers can never be too careful when making sure their bodies are their healthiest for the baby they are carrying. Taking medication of any kind is risky for both the mother and unborn child. It’s always a good idea for women to check with their physician to find out if a substance they are taking or want to take is safe to do so while pregnant.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains why it matters that expectant women pay attention to the medicine they take before and during their pregnancies. Among the data it cites are:

  • Nine in 10 women report taking some type of medicine during pregnancy, and seven in 10 report taking at least one prescription medicine.
  • During the past 30 years, women’s use of prescription medicines during the first trimester (first three months) of pregnancy increased by more than 60 percent.

The CDC also has said that many women do need to take medication during their pregnancy to control their health conditions. In some cases, not taking the medication or stopping the medication during pregnancy can do more harm than good. Still, it writes, “At the same time, we know that taking certain medicines during pregnancy can cause birth defects, pregnancy loss, prematurity, infant death, or developmental disabilities.”

It also advises that how medications affect a pregnant woman or her baby depends on factors such as the dose of the medication taken, when during the pregnancy the medicine is taken, other existing health conditions, and the other medications that are being taken.


When it comes to drugs that are safe to take while pregnant, you definitely can cross Xanax off the list. It is not safe to take Xanax while pregnant. The fast-acting sedative, which is generically known as alprazolam, is a Category D drug, which means it has caused adverse reactions in humans and that taking it can harm one’s pregnancy. That category is right before Category X, which consists of drugs that pregnant women should never use.


Xanax, a powerful sedative, is among the most prescribed medications in the United States. According to data, the number of benzodiazepine prescriptions written increased 67 percent to 13.5 million per year in 2013 from 8.1 million in 1999. With so many Xanax prescriptions being written, it is highly likely there are women taking it now who are either pregnant or may be considering pregnancy down the road. Both may be in the group of users who want to know how the medication can affect their health and that of their unborn child.


Xanax is a powerful prescription drug that is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines (benzos) are drugs prescribed to treat people who have anxiety related to different phobias and panic disorders or sleep disturbances. The drug also is illegally sold on the streets and abused for recreational purposes. Regardless of whether it’s obtained legally or not, Xanax is habit-forming and highly addictive, even when taken in prescribed amounts.

The effects users feel when taking Xanax occur when the medication suppresses the central nervous system. It binds to certain areas of the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, slowing down nerve cell activity. Users then begin to feel calm and relaxed within 15-60 minutes after taking it. Effects can last for a few hours. Its short half-life means it exits the body quickly.

Xanax is designed for short-term use. Taking it for longer periods than those prescribed by a medical professional is running the risk of developing a physical and psychological dependence on it. When users notice physical and psychological changes have followed their break in Xanax use, it’s likely that they have developed a dependence on Xanax dependence and may need professional help to end their dependence on it.


HealthLinereports that taking Xanax while pregnant can affect a woman’s pregnancy. It also reports that the effects depend on what stage of pregnancy that she’s in. It is best to avoid taking it during all three trimesters, it advises.

According to the site, during the first trimester, Xanax use can increase the baby’s risk of having birth defects, such as cleft lip, cleft palate, or another problem that can affect the baby’s development, appearance, or functioning. In the second and third trimesters, or months four to nine, Xanax use can cause withdrawal syndrome in the baby. HealthLine also reports that Xanax can cause the baby to be emotionally or physically dependent on the medication.

Xanax use that happens later in pregnancy can result in the baby having floppy infant syndrome, according to HealthLine. “This means your baby may have weak muscles. They may not be able to control their head, arms, and legs, giving them a rag doll-like appearance. This condition may last two to three weeks after birth,” according to the digital publication.


Pregnant women, just like many others, have mental health disorders they must treat. In many cases, these conditions came before pregnancy. Psychiatric illnesses such as an anxiety disorder, depression, or bipolar also affect women who may be prone to taking prescription medications to help them manage their mental health. While medications can be helpful, it is understandable if pregnant women who take them have questions and concerns about whether they should continue to take them.

There are risks to taking benzos during pregnancy, according to the results of a recently published study conducted by Kimberly Yonkers, a psychiatrist and professor at Yale University. A National Public Radioarticle says Yonkers “has been studying the effects of benzodiazepines and SSRI antidepressants on the pregnancies of women who have anxiety, depression or panic disorders.”

The study reviewed data for 2,654 pregnant women and found an increase in C-section deliveries among them. According to the NPR report, Yonkers also found that the babies of moms taking benzodiazepines were more likely to need extra oxygen or other respiratory support after birth.

“We also found the duration of pregnancy was shortened by, on average, 3.6 days — so quite modest,” Yonkers told NPR.

While benzodiazepines are not risk-free, the study’s findings suggest that women who use them do not need to stop taking them while pregnant, Yonkers told NPR.

If you or someone you know needs benzodiazepine treatment during pregnancy, it is important to consult with your physician first to discuss your particular situation. These findings are for informational purposes only, and they are not intended to be medical advice. Dr. David Garry, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Stony Brook University, told NPR for its report that he also advises consulting with a health care provider and that pregnant women should aim to take the lowest dose possible of the medications that effectively treat their symptoms.


Women who use Xanax while pregnant and those who are thinking about motherhood in the future may want to consider finding alternatives to taking the medication. Talk with your physician about safer alternatives. HealthLineadvises the following questions for women who want to talk to their doctors about using Xanax during pregnancy or post-pregnancy:

  • How can I safely stop using Xanax?
  • How long before I get pregnant should I stop using Xanax?
  • Can I take Xanax while nursing or breastfeeding? reports that Xanax passes into breast milk and may have undesirable effects on a nursing infant. It recommends that women using Xanax do not breastfeed while on the medication but also advises
  • Are there other ways to help relieve my anxiety or panic symptoms during pregnancy, such as exercise or acupuncture?


Pathway to Hope, a Delphi Behavioral Health Group facility, specializes in helping people who are battling an addiction to Xanax or any substance, whether it’s legal or illegal. We focus on the roots of your addiction and mental health condition and help you or your loved one start healing from substance abuse and give you the tools to leave it behind for good.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Xanax prescription dependence, whether physical or psychological, call Pathway to Hope at (855) 757-2128 today or reach out to us online, so we can help you find the right treatment program. Don’t delay. If you need addiction treatment, now is the time to make that important step for your health and your life.


Elysia Richardson

Elysia L. Richardson is a writer and editor at Delphi Behavioral Health Group.

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