Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a disorder characterized by obsessive worry and can also cause physical distress. Many different types of medication are prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of GAD. However, some of these medications are not recommended for use while pregnant, while others are considered safe. Women who are planning to become pregnant or who are already pregnant should review the benefits and risks associated with taking medicine for their anxiety.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
This group of medications includes Paxil, Celexa, Zoloft and Prozac. According to the Anxiety Disorders of America Association, these medications are considered safe during pregnancy. However, the Mayo Clinic asserts that Paxil, when taken in the first trimester, has been shown to increase the risk of birth defects, particularly heart defects. Also, taking SSRIs in the later weeks of pregnancy very rarely may lead to pulmonary hypertension in a newborn.
Tricyclics include Pamelow and Tofranil. These medications are frequently prescribed to pregnant with women and with no adverse effects having yet been noted.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
MAOIs include Nardil and Parnate and these should not be prescribed during pregnancy because taking them increases the risk of birth defects. Also, these medications pose an increased risk of stroke in any person, whether pregnant or not.
Benzodiazephines include Valium, Ativan and Klonopin and these medications may lead to abnormalities, especially when taken in the first trimester. Some studies have indicated that medicines in this class increase the risk of cleft lip and palate and also may cause problems such as low muscle tone, hypothermia and feeding problems.
Medicines such as lithium and valporic acid should not be taken during pregnancy because they can cause many different problems such as heart defects, low muscle tone and other birth defects.
Some women may experience increased anxiety symptoms during pregnancy. Pregnant women should always speak to their doctor about the pros and cons of continuing current anxiety medications or switching to a safer medication. Some women who stop taking all medications may be at increased risk of having early labor or developing complications such as preeclampsia.