Risks Of Abusing Xanax While Pregnant

Taking Xanax while pregnant poses various risks to the unborn baby, even when taken by prescription for various mental health issues. Fortunately, there are alternatives to Xanax for pregnant women to safely take during pregnancy.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Xanax is a popular prescription medication that is most often used for addressing anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

Xanax is the brand name for a type of drug called benzodiazepines. While it is safe to use as prescribed, the medication comes with high risk for addiction and a number of side effects.

Xanax abuse leads to additional side effects and health risks — some of which can be dangerous to a pregnant woman and unborn babies.

Can You Take Xanax While Pregnant?

Xanax is a pregnancy Category D drug according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means that it is not safe to take while pregnant.

This is true for abusing the medication as well as simply taking it at a recommended dose for a mental health issue.

If a woman is taking Xanax while pregnant, she should discuss alternatives with her healthcare provider and also determine a plan to go off it safely.

Stopping the use of Xanax abruptly can be dangerous and lethal for both the woman and the unborn child.

In addition, Xanax should not be taken during the postpartum period while breastfeeding, as harmful amounts have been found to be present in breast milk.

Potential Risks Of Xanax Abuse During Pregnancy

Xanax has shown to be very effective when treating certain mental health disorders and symptoms of anxiety.

However, taking Xanax does not come without risks and potential long-term side effects for a baby if taken while pregnant.

Birth Defects And Malformations

Drug use during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk for certain birth defects and malformations in the developing fetus. This is especially true when Xanax is taken during the first trimester of pregnancy.

A cleft lip and cleft palate are two of the most common birth defects that are specifically associated with Xanax use during pregnancy.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

When Xanax is taken late in a pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester, the baby may be born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

NAS is most common in babies exposed to opioids during pregnancy, but can occur with benzos also.

NAS occurs because Xanax is able to pass through the placenta and reach the baby while still a fetus.

Floppy Infant Syndrome

A baby born with floppy infant syndrome, also called hypotonia, has low muscle tone. Newborns with this syndrome will have weak arm and leg movements and will have a limp and floppy feel to them when held.

Babies with this condition may have trouble holding their heads up as well and will usually require some form of physical therapy in order to recover.

Low Birth Weight

When a baby is born weighing less than five pounds and eight ounces, they are considered to have a low birth weight. Babies born with low birth weights are often behind developmentally in other ways as well.

Low birth weight often occurs when babies are born prematurely, which happens when babies are born before 37 weeks of gestation.

Will Xanax Use During Pregnancy Lead To Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax abuse can be life-threatening and no one should ever attempt to quit cold turkey.

Symptoms can be felt by both the woman during pregnancy and the baby after birth. A baby born with withdrawal will likely be very fussy and have difficulty sleeping and feeding, among other potential health complications.

Withdrawal symptoms for Xanax include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • aggression
  • irritability
  • sweating
  • headaches
  • seizures
  • insomnia
  • confusion and delirium

Alternatives To Use Of Benzodiazepines While Pregnant

While benzos are not safe to use during pregnancy, it is important for a pregnant woman to have alternatives, as anxiety and depression are both common during pregnancy.

Some types of antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are considered relatively safe for use by pregnant women.

Taking these in addition to seeking cognitive behavioral therapy can be extremely beneficial for pregnant women.

Medical advice also suggests that natural remedies can be helpful for treating anxiety during pregnancy. Some of these include exercise, listening to music, and maintaining a healthy diet.

Treatment Options For Xanax Addiction

An addiction to Xanax is serious, regardless of whether the person is pregnant while abusing it.

Fortunately, addiction treatment is widely available, and there are even some addiction programs which are specifically designed for pregnant women and women with children.

Treatment options for Xanax addiction include:

  • residential treatment
  • partial hospitalization programs
  • individual therapy
  • behavioral therapy
  • court-ordered detox
  • case management
  • medical detox
  • medication-assisted treatment

Find Substance Abuse Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we know that entering addiction treatment can be a scary and intimidating experience.

Please understand that you are not alone, and that we are here to guide you during the recovery process.

Recovery is possible. Give us a call when you are ready to get started.

  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus
  2. National Library of Medicine: PubMed
  3. United States Drug Enforcement Administration

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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