As with any significant changes in medical condition, if you are a Xanax user and find out that you are pregnant, you should first consult your doctor as to the best course of action from here on. Your doctor will certainly want to run some tests and may or may not decide to have you discontinue your Xanax or wean you off of it, depending on how long you have been taking it for. Pregnancy causes a myriad of hormone changes as is and in some cases, combined with pre-existing panic or anxiety disorder could potentially cause the mother to pose a risk to herself and/or the unborn baby. Xanax is also classified as a “Pregnancy Category D Drug.” This means that in both human and animal testing, the drug has been shown to pose an increased risk of birth defect or worse to the unborn baby, but that the benefits of the drug may outweigh the risks posed to the fetus. The most commonly reported birth defects include neonatal depression, which refers to respiratory distress in the newborn baby, cleft lip and muscle wasting or “floppy baby syndrome”.
Most of the time a Category D drug is limited to drugs without which the mother cannot survive but in the case of Xanax, some doctors would argue that the benefits associated with taking the drug also outweigh the risks to the baby. Long-term effects of Xanax on the baby are not known but your doctor will certainly want to run tests throughout your pregnancy to observe any possible adverse reactions in the fetus.
As the pregnancy draws close to an end, it is highly recommended that the mother, with the help of her doctor, begin to taper off of her Xanax medication until after the birth of the baby. Babies born to mothers who are taking Xanax will have the drug in their systems and exhibit symptoms of its influence such as impaired response to stimulus, lethargy, bradycardia (low pulse rate), respiratory distress, unwillingness to cry (which clears out their lungs after birth), unwillingness to breastfeed and even withdrawal symptoms.
As with pregnancy, great care should be taken if a mother chooses to breastfeed her baby while on Xanax. Since the drug is passed via the milk to the baby, the effects will also be passed on to the baby causing listlessness, respiratory distress, weight-loss, loss of appetite, bradycardia and possible withdrawal symptoms if an addiction is formed via breast milk. It is recommended that if possible the mother refrain from continuing generic Xanax if she wishes to breastfeed, or that she not breastfeed at all if stopping the Xanax medication would pose a substantial risk to the well being of the mother. If the mother chooses to both continue Xanax and breastfeed the baby, it is important to monitor the baby closely for withdrawal symptoms and adverse reactions to the presence of Xanax in the system.