When a woman is pregnant, the choices she makes about medication can have an impact on the developing baby. Medications like Xanax are known to cross the placenta, which means that they have a direct effect on the fetus. If a pregnant woman takes this drug, the fetus is at risk for conditions like withdrawal and birth defects.

Xanax is the most commonly prescribed and misused benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. This drug is a central nervous system depressant, and can lead to feelings of calm and relaxation.

Xanax is also highly addictive and can lead to physical dependence. This means that pregnant women who take Xanax could become addicted, and their baby could be born dependent on the drug. Xanax abuse can also lead to acute withdrawal syndrome, which can be dangerous to a newborn baby.

Can Xanax Abuse Affect Pregnancy?

Yes. Abusing Xanax while pregnant can lead to dependence, addiction, maternal and neonatal withdrawal, and birth defects.

Research has found that Xanax can lead to birth defects and neonatal abstinence syndrome (withdrawal). Still, up to 33 percent of women receive psychotropic drugs like Xanax while pregnant. Often, this drug is prescribed to treat a condition that occurred before the pregnancy.

Even though Xanax use can put the baby at risk, many women continue to take Xanax throughout their pregnancy because they are dependent on the drug. When people are dependent on Xanax, they may abuse the substance by taking larger or more frequent doses than prescribed.

When people stop taking Xanax abruptly, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms. In women who are pregnant, these symptoms could also pose a risk to the baby.

Effects Of Abusing Xanax During Pregnancy

Like many other prescription drugs, Xanax comes with a list of potential side effects. Even when taken as directed, Xanax can lead to side effects including memory issues, poor concentration, and extreme fatigue.

If Xanax is being abused (or taken other than how it’s prescribed), these side effects will likely be intensified. Additionally, abusing Xanax increases a person’s risk of physical dependence, tolerance, and addiction.

These side effects can be especially risky for women who are pregnant and could have an effect on their developing baby. If a pregnant woman stops using the drug suddenly, she may experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as suicidal ideation and seizure.

Additional side effects of Xanax abuse include:

  • irritability
  • drowsiness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • constipation
  • itching
  • change in appetite
  • weight changes
  • difficulty urinating
  • sore joints
  • dry mouth
  • tolerance (when a person needs to take more medication to achieve the same effects)
  • physical dependence (person may experience withdrawal symptoms if medication is stopped)

Risks Of Abusing Xanax During Pregnancy

There are significant risks of abusing benzodiazepines during pregnancy. Xanax is one of the most potent drugs in its class, and can quickly lead to dependence and addiction.

In addition to the physical risks of abusing Xanax while pregnant, there can be emotional consequences as well. Being a new mother can be challenging, and dealing with drug addiction or neonatal withdrawal syndrome can make the transition to motherhood even more difficult.

Birth Defects

If a pregnant woman abuses Xanax in the first trimester, the baby could be born with birth defects like cleft palate or inguinal hernia.

Researchers have also discovered associations between prenatal Xanax abuse and microcephaly (abnormally small head circumference). Some babies are also born with congenital hip dislocation.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (Withdrawal)

One of the most well-documented risks of abusing Xanax while pregnant is neonatal abstinence syndrome, or neonatal withdrawal. If a person takes Xanax throughout their pregnancy, the baby could be born suffering from withdrawal.

Xanax is associated with a difficult withdrawal period. Even among healthy adults, withdrawing from Xanax can lead to life-threatening symptoms such as a seizure. For a newborn baby, these symptoms can be extremely dangerous.

Symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome (withdrawal) include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • sedation
  • irritability (excessive crying)
  • low heart rate
  • trouble sucking/eating
  • uneven breathing
  • floppy infant syndrome (low muscle tone in head, arms, and legs)
  • cyanosis (bluish tint to the skin)
  • seizures

If a baby is born addicted to Xanax, he or she will likely suffer from symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome. This could interfere with maternal-child bonding. Additionally, babies who suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome may also face long-term risks to their health.

To avoid these long-term risks, it’s vital to stop using Xanax as soon as you learn you are pregnant. The safest way to stop taking Xanax is with the help of a medically assisted detox program.

Xanax Withdrawal And Detox

When a person takes Xanax for a length of time, they may develop a tolerance. This means they require larger amounts of the drug in order to get the same effects. Over time, this can lead to physical dependence.

If they stop their use suddenly, they could experience severe withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be especially risky for women who are pregnant.

Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal may include:

  • blurred vision
  • vomiting
  • decreased appetite
  • sensitivity to noise and light
  • aggression
  • muscle cramps
  • diarrhea
  • sweating
  • trouble sleeping
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • seizures

Withdrawing from a benzodiazepine like Xanax can be life-threatening, and should always take place under medical supervision. Medical detox programs exist in order to help patients through the difficult withdrawal stage.

Many detox programs offer customized treatment plans for women who are pregnant. Patients are provided with emotional support and medications to soothe withdrawal symptoms. Fetal monitoring and counseling may also be provided.

Finding Treatment For Xanax Abuse And Addiction When Pregnant

Pregnant women who are struggling with Xanax abuse and addiction can find help in specialized treatment programs. Many inpatient rehab centers provide customized care to women who are pregnant and want to stop taking Xanax.

In an inpatient rehab center, pregnant women can detox in a safe and supportive environment. Medical care, addiction education, and parenting classes may be provided. Certain programs may take private or public health insurance, including Medicaid.

For more information on the effects and risks of abusing Xanax during pregnancy, or to find a maternal rehab center near you, contact one of our treatment specialists today.