Posted by Claudia Grazioso on June 16, 2011
A few years ago, a friend of mine was taking Xanax pretty regularly… as in every morning with her coffee. The coffee woke her up, the Xanax eased the rolling bouts of terror she would feel throughout the morning — episodes that frequently interfered with her ability to work and be functional. I know. I worked with her. And indeed, the morning Xanax was a lifesaver. Poignantly, she said, “It gave me my mind back.”
Xanax, also known as Alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine. It is frequently prescribed for anxiety disorders, specifically to treat sudden onsets of panic or extreme fear that can interrupt with a person’s ability to function. Like most benzodiazepines, it decreases abnormal levels of activity or excitement in the brain and allows a person to focus and function normally. And, having seen it first hand, it does appear to be a wonder drug in that regard. But, like all drugs, it’s not great for everyone.
Classified as a Category D drug, Xanax is contraindicated during pregnancy. Category D drugs are a stronger warning to the consumer and medical community than the Category C classification given to most SSRI drugs. Category D drugs are believed to carry a clear risk of harm to a developing fetus when taken during pregnancy by its mother. (Note: If you are pregnant and currently taking Xanax, do not simply stop taking your medication. Instead, talk to your doctor to discuss how to wean off of it safely.)
No doubt, there are stories of women who took Xanax throughout their pregnancy and delivered healthy babies. But the risk for problems remains real. Babies who were exposed to Xanax in utero had a higher rate of cleft lip and cleft palate, especially if they were exposed to Xanax in the first trimester. Additionally, there is a real concern about infant withdrawal from Xanax. Symptoms have been noted in infants whose mother’s took Xanax throughout their pregnancy, and they include some scary stuff: an inability for the baby’s body to regulate its temperature, muscle weakness (sometimes called “floppy baby syndrome”), tremors, respiratory difficulties and sleep problems, to name a few. Some studies also found a higher risk of preterm delivery associated with taking Xanax, as well as lower birth weights.
Also, if you have delivered a baby and are considering breastfeeding while taking Xanax, reconsider. Xanax is present in breast milk and nursing infants whose moms take Xanax have had difficulty suckling, can be lethargic or even sedated. Though it’s great to breastfeed your baby, formula is not the worst thing in the world. If you need to take Xanax, consider formula-feeding your baby instead of nursing.