Xanax (alprazolam) is a type of drug called a benzodiazepine. It’s FDA-approved for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms, management of anxiety disorder, and treatment of panic disorder.

Xanax can help relieve anxiety. But if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the drug may actually cause you some worry. You may wonder, is it safe to take Xanax during pregnancy? Check out the answer and learn other ways to manage your anxiety safely during pregnancy.

Is Xanax safe to take during pregnancy?

Xanax is not safe to take during pregnancy. It’s a pregnancy category D drug. That means it can harm your pregnancy.

The effects on the pregnancy depend on when in the pregnancy you take Xanax. It can cause serious problems throughout your entire pregnancy, though, so you should avoid it during all three trimesters.

During the first trimester

Taking Xanax during your first trimester (months 1 to 3) of pregnancy could raise your baby’s risk of birth defects. These could include cleft lip, cleft palate, or more serious problems. These birth defects could affect the way your baby looks, develops, or functions for the rest of their life.

During the second and third trimesters

Taking Xanax during your second or third trimesters (months 4 to 9) of pregnancy can cause withdrawal syndrome in your baby. This is because Xanax can cause emotional or physical dependence or addiction in your baby.

Little research exists on withdrawal in newborns, but problems could include trouble breathing, trouble eating on their own, and dehydration. These effects could last several days. It’s not known what longer-lasting effects could occur.

Taking Xanax later in your pregnancy can also cause floppy infant syndrome. This means your baby may have weak muscles. They may not be able to control their head, arms, and legs, giving them a rag doll-like appearance. This condition may last 2 to 3 weeks after birth.

Withdrawal and floppy infant syndrome could cause your baby to have a low Apgar score. An Apgar score is a measure of the physical condition of your baby. A low score can mean problems with your baby’s breathing, heart rate, or body temperature.

Xanax, addiction, and withdrawal

Xanax is a Schedule 4 controlled substance. This means the federal government regulates its use. Xanax is regulated because it can cause emotional or physical dependence or addiction, even when used as prescribed. Xanax can cause withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • mood changes
  • trouble sleeping
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • tremors
  • seizures

Withdrawal symptoms can last up to several weeks or months. To help prevent withdrawal symptoms during pregnancy, ask your doctor how long before you get pregnant you should stop taking Xanax. Your doctor will guide you on how to stop your use of Xanax safely.

Alternatives to Xanax

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about treatment options other than Xanax for your anxiety.

Your doctor may suggest a medication from a different drug class. For instance, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) also help relieve anxiety and have been shown to be safer during pregnancy. Examples of SSRIs include escitalopram (Lexapro) and fluoxetine (Prozac).

Your doctor may suggest cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a form of talk therapy done with a therapist. CBT can also help relieve symptoms of anxiety or panic disorder. Your doctor may suggest other options, too.

Anxiety and pregnancy

You should avoid taking Xanax during your pregnancy. However, you should still be sure to get treatment for your anxiety or panic disorder. Having a baby is a joyful experience for many women, but it can definitely cause more stress in your life. You’ll want to make sure you have a good system lined up to manage your anxiety through this time.

An untreated anxiety disorder can cause serious problems for your pregnancy, as well. For instance, anxiety or panic disorder may prevent you from getting good prenatal care. Your symptoms may cause you to miss doctor visits, eat poorly, or turn to coping habits such as smoking or drinking alcohol. These behaviors could cause problems such as premature birth, low birth weight, and other issues.

Proper treatment of your anxiety condition can help prevent these problems and ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby. While you aren’t taking Xanax, you may find other methods helpful. For example, try one of the 15 best anxiety iPhone and Android apps.

Talk with your doctor

If your doctor has prescribed you Xanax for an off-label use, such as seizure prevention, talk to your doctor about how best to manage your condition during pregnancy. Xanax is harmful to a developing baby no matter what you take it for.

To learn more about Xanax, anxiety problems, and pregnancy, talk with your doctor. Be sure to ask any questions you may have, such as:

  • How can I safely stop using Xanax?
  • How long before I get pregnant should I stop taking Xanax?
  • Can I take Xanax while breastfeeding?
  • Are there other ways to help relieve my anxiety or panic symptoms during pregnancy, such as exercise or acupuncture?

Your doctor can help you get safe treatment for your anxiety condition. This will help you look forward to a pregnancy that’s healthy for you and your baby.