Xanax, which is a brand name for the drug Alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine drug usually used to treat anxiety and panic attacks. Xanax is also sometimes used in conjunction with antidepressants for depression-related anxiety. Taking Xanax is a risk for individuals who are (or are planning to become) pregnant, as stated by the FDA. Xanax and other benzodiazepines are not recommended to be taken while the patient is pregnant, due to serious fetal side effects that may occur.
Alprazolam was developed by the Upjohn company in 1969, and they held the patent until 1981. After 1981, several brand-name versions of alprazolam were released, including Xanax, Xanor, Reclam and Niravam. At first, Alprazolam was prescribed only for panic disorders, which was a rare ailment at the time. When the distinction was made between panic disorders and anxiety disorders, however, Xanax was prescribed more effectively. For many years, Xanax was approved only for short-term use, and is still not recommended to be taken for a lifetime, as the drug is a highly addictive and deemed a controlled substance by the FDA.
Xanax is not approved by the FDA for use while a patient is pregnant. Xanax is classified as a Pregnancy Category D by the FDA, which states that "there is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks." Pregnancy Category D is the the second-lowest category an FDA-approved drug can be rated into, so it is very important to get a second opinion if a doctor recommends that you take Xanax while you are pregnant. Very rarely do the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
If a mother takes benzodiazepine, including Xanax, during pregnancy, the child will suffer withdrawal symptoms during and after birth. Long-term adult patients will experience Xanax withdrawal if they do not taper off the drug slowly and carefully, and the same is true of an infant born to a mother who took Xanax during her pregnancy. Additionally, respiratory problems as well as neonatal flaccidity are commonly reported when an infant is born to a mother who took Xanax during her pregnancy. A mother can also transfer Xanax to her child by way of breastfeeding. A mother must either choose to take Xanax and not breastfeed, or discontinue Xanax until the child has stopped breastfeeding.
A fetus under the influence of Xanax will probably not show any strange symptoms in the womb, but may appear more lethargic than a normal fetus under constant monitoring. After birth, an infant who was exposed to Xanax in the womb may display strange side effects, including extreme tiredness, crying, muscle weakness and a glazed expression in the child's eyes. If a child exhibits these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean she was exposed to Xanax in the womb or via breast milk, but if the mother was taking Xanax at the time of pregnancy or while nursing, it is the likely cause of these effects.
If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, consult your doctor immediately if you are taking Xanax. Even if you have been prescribed Xanax, taper off as safely as your doctor says is possible if you discover you have become pregnant. Xanax can cause severe birth defects and other infant health problems in the long run, so in most cases, it is far better to find a drug-free remedy for stress. Even if you and your doctor have agreed you can take Xanax during your pregnancy, you are putting your child at a high risk for birth defects.