As a mother, there is nothing more satisfying than the gift of life. You and your partner have come together to create a little miracle, sharing your love beyond what you could even imagine. It’s a beautiful milestone in your life and something you may have wanted since you were a little girl. However, once the excitement wears off, and everything goes back to normal, issues like anxiety that you might struggle with don’t go away because you’re pregnant. Unfortunately, if you’re taking certain medications to combat your ailments, your doctor might suggest you stop using them for the duration of your pregnancy. You might be asking yourself – can you take Xanax while pregnant?
When it comes to anxiety, statistics may be against you and not in your favor. Anxiety is the most common mental illness throughout the United States, affecting a disproportionate amount of people. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), a staggering 40 million adults suffer from a form of anxiety, translating to 18.1 percent of the population each year. Despite being highly treatable, only 36.9 percent of those with the condition will get the help they need. Those who do seek help are likely to be prescribed a drug like Xanax, a benzodiazepine highly effective in treating the condition, but what happens when you’re pregnant?
Although anxiety affects a significant portion of the population, many otherwise mentally sound women could experience symptoms while pregnant. According to a study that measured anxiety in pregnant women, the estimated rate of high anxiety was 35 percent during pregnancy, 17 percent right after childbirth, and 20 percent six weeks postpartum. These levels decreased after childbirth. Unfortunately, the statistics do not discuss whether these women struggled with the condition prior to pregnancy. However, anxiety is common during pregnancy, but using drugs like Xanax may not be in the cards, even if it’s something you’ve used successfully up until this point.
If you’re pregnant or planning to be and you’re concerned about your anxiety treatment, it’s important to learn about Xanax alternatives. Xanax is not safe to use during pregnancy. It’s considered a pregnancy category D drug, meaning it can harm your pregnancy. It should be avoided at all costs. With that being said, if you’re using the drug, speak to your doctor about safely stopping as it can cause potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. Let’s take a look at Xanax alternatives below.
What Does Xanax Treat?
Although Xanax is a safe medication used to treat anxiety, there are many scenarios when you shouldn’t take it, such as being pregnant, for one. Xanax is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant prescribed for short-term relief of anxiety, managing anxiety disorders, and the treatment of panic disorder. When used in moderation, you don’t have to worry about severe side effects, but it can lead to chemical dependency when used regularly for two weeks. Even worse, it can lead to you developing a substance use disorder (SUD), which would be extremely dangerous if you’re pregnant or planning on it.
Is There Any Safe Amount of Xanax During Pregnancy?
In short, no, you should avoid Xanax by any means necessary when you’re pregnant. As mentioned above, it’s a category D drug, meaning it can harm your unborn child. These effects are solely dependent on when in the pregnancy you use Xanax. The drug can cause severe issues throughout the entire pregnancy, so it should be avoided through all three trimesters. If you’re trying to get pregnant, you should stop taking the drug. If you’re taking Xanax and find out you’re pregnant, you must speak to your doctor about the safest way to stop. They could tell you to stop trying until you’ve weaned your dose to nothing.
Here is a breakdown of how Xanax can affect each trimester of your pregnancy.
Using Xanax to relieve anxiety during the first trimester, months one to three can increase the chances of birth defects. According to some older studies, these include cleft lips, cleft palates, or other severe issues. These defects will affect how your baby looks, develops, and functions for the rest of its life. Please, take these warnings seriously.
Second and Third Trimesters
Using Xanax during your second and third trimesters, months four to nine of pregnancy, can lead to your baby developing Xanax withdrawal syndrome. It’s because Xanax has the ability to cause physical and emotional dependence or addiction in your baby. Since Xanax withdrawal can be fatal in adults, you can imagine how dangerous this is in a baby.
There is limited research regarding withdrawal in newborns, but it could cause them issues with eating on their own, trouble breathing, and dehydration. This can last for several days. The long-term effects are unknown. However, Xanax withdrawal syndrome in newborns can cause floppy infant syndrome and lead to your baby having a low Apgar score, the measure of your baby’s physical condition. It can indicate issues with heart rate, body temperature, and breathing.
The Effects of Xanax Abuse While Pregnant
Xanax is considered a Schedule 4 controlled substance, meaning the federal government regulates the use of it. The drug is monitored closely largely in part because it can lead to physical and emotional dependence or addiction, even when you follow the doctor’s instructions. As dangerous as Xanax addiction may be, withdrawal can also be as severe without the right help.
Xanax withdrawal during pregnancy can cause the following symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Inability to sleep
- Sleeping too much
- Muscle cramps
- Lapses in memory
Depending on the severity of your addiction, Xanax withdrawal can last up to several weeks. In some cases, it can last months. If you experience symptoms after the acute stage, you could have something known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). In some cases, PAWS can last up to a year or longer.
As you can see, Xanax is a dangerous option to treat anxiety while pregnant. Seeking alternatives, at least while you’re pregnant, can help you avoid harm to your baby and damage to your health.
What Are the Best Xanax Alternatives?
If one of your primary concerns about getting pregnant is how to treat your anxiety, you’re in luck to learn about the alternatives for Xanax.
Remember, we’re all made up of different chemical makeup. While one solution works wonders for one person, it may not have any effect on you. For that reason, please speak with your doctor to determine what’s right for you. They could suggest something in a different drug class, such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to help alleviate your anxiety. These drugs have been shown to be safe during pregnancy. Some examples include Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac.
It’s essential to share that Prozac and Lexapro are considered category C medications, meaning that drugs in this class must be used with caution if your physician determines their benefits outweigh any potential risks. If you’re against using medication because you fear its effects on the baby, other Xanax alternative options are available to you while pregnant.
You may have heard of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and thought it was reserved for treating depression, addiction, or PTSD. However, it’s such an effective therapy that it can be used across a broad spectrum, including alleviating your anxiety while pregnant. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of talk therapy and psychological treatment based on several core principles. These include changing faulty ways of thinking, that problems are learned patterns of unhelpful behavior and that someone suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways to cope with them. CBT is geared toward changing your thought patterns.
Fortunately, there are various methods available to relieve anxiety. For example, meditation is an excellent and safe means of dealing with anxiety while pregnant. You should always discuss it with your doctor to determine if it’s safe for you and the baby no matter what you decide. Remember, it’s only temporary if you have to give up something like Xanax or other medications used to treat anxiety. Not only that, it’s for a great cause.
If you find it a bit more of a challenge than you anticipated to stop using Xanax because you’re pregnant or planning on it, help is available.