Pregnant women with anxiety or panic disorders need effective treatment at all stages of pregnancy. While benzodiazepines like Xanax commonly treat anxiety, these drugs could harm a developing fetus. Pregnant women addicted to Xanax also must discuss safe ways to taper off drug use to have a healthy pregnancy.
Balancing Mental Health Symptoms with Pregnancy
It’s important for a woman to have all the facts when she’s pregnant and a woman with a mental health disorder should discuss safe ways to manage her symptoms with her physicians. It’s critical to recognize symptoms during pregnancy, because the hormonal changes occurring during this period make mental disorders more severe. Women who don’t receive help for symptoms may not take good care of themselves, for example, they may miss doctor visits or eat poorly. Poor health during a woman’s pregnancy puts a baby at risk of low birth weight, premature birth or other complications.1
Some women take Xanax during pregnancy because they are addicted to the drug. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and bring on withdrawal symptoms when a person stops taking them. When patients take them for longer than recommended they may experience lingering psychological symptoms, such as depression. They also must step down gradually to avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
The active ingredient in Xanax passes from a woman’s body to that of her fetus through the placenta. The more of the drug a woman takes in, the more her baby also takes. Research suggests that benzodiazepines like Xanax impair the growth process a child goes through during the pregnancy. Specifically, Xanax and other benzodiazepine drugs can cause a cleft to form between a baby’s nose and upper lip. This is a facial deformity corrected with surgery. In some cases,the cleft may extend inside the baby’s mouth, meaning the child won’t be able to eat properly, and surgery must be performed within the first few days of life. Putting a newborn through surgery isn’t without risk, and it can be expensive. Women who take Xanax during pregnancy take significant risks.2
In addiction to cleft palate, a separate study suggests that babies born to mothers who take benzodiazepines can display a number of unusual symptoms after birth, including:
- Reluctance to nurse
- Intolerance to cold
- Stiff arms and legs (hypertonia)
These symptoms tend to wear off, researchers say, but they’re still a concern for babies and the medical teams who care for them.3
Stopping the Cycle
Women who attempt to suddenly stop a Xanax habit during pregnancy may think it’s a good choice for the baby’s health, but this practice can cause seizures and miscarriage. It’s vital for women to work with their doctors to end Xanax use before the baby is born. Doctors develop a tapering withdrawal program that helps a woman stop the drug safely without losing her baby or her health in the process.
In addition, there are other safer drugs that treat anxiety and panic disorders. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Lexapro and Prozac also treat these symptoms.
Women, Biology and Drug Use
Decades of addiction treatment research makes it clear women need addiction treatments sensitive to their specific needs. The most effective treatment programs offer specialized treatment for women, including family counseling to address any problems at home, childcare services and counseling during pregnancy.4
While many addiction treatments effectively treat women and men, the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the way women respond to treatment demand tailored approaches. Treatment center staff members must stay aware of women’s different thought processes and the unique social pressures they face.
Getting Help for Xanax Abuse
At The Oaks at La Paloma in Memphis, Tenn., we offer a number of treatment programs that help people addicted to Xanax. We also offer integrated treatment plans that treat patient’s mental health and addiction symptoms at the same time. Our counselors develop a program that’s just right for you, no matter the cause.We include your family in the healing too, so you’ll all feel connected throughout the whole process. Please call our admissions coordinators today to learn more about Xanax detox and treatment.
2 Dolovich, Lisa R; Addis Antonio, Vaillancourt, et al. “Benzodiazepine Use in Pregnancy and Major Malformations or Oral Cleft: Meta-Analysis of Cohort and Case-Control Studies.” BMJ. September 26, 1998.
3 McElhatton. “The Effects of Benzodiazepine Use During Pregnancy and Lactation.” Reproductive Toxicology. November, 1994.
4 “Substance Abuse Treatment: Addressing the Specific Needs of Women.” Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, no. 51, chapter 7. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. March 28, 2011.