The Dangers of Using Xanax During Pregnancy

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Drug abuse can always put your health and safety at risk. But abusing drugs or alcohol during pregnancy can cause significant harm to both you and your unborn baby.

Many people take Xanax to manage anxiety symptoms or use it recreationally for its sedating effects. But is it safe to keep taking Xanax during pregnancy?

If you abuse Xanax while pregnant and require treatment to stop, reach out to the specialists at New Jersey Addiction Interventions today to learn about our comprehensive treatment programs.

What is Xanax?

Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed anxiety medications available today. Benzodiazepine drugs like Xanax can be very effective at treating anxiety, but they also pose a risk of addiction for people who take them.[1]

When people take Xanax (alprazolam), they may feel calm, euphoric, or sedated. Many take Xanax recreationally or differently than prescribed to get these pleasant effects. Prolonged Xanax abuse can quickly spiral into an addiction that requires treatment to overcome.

Why Do People Abuse Xanax While Pregnant?

Doctors prescribe Xanax to treat anxiety. Anxiety affects people in different ways, but generally, people experience uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Agitation
  • Racing thoughts
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Poor memory and concentration

These symptoms can severely impact a person’s ability to cope with daily life. Researchers believe chronic anxiety may be caused by an imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters. Often, medications can correct this imbalance.

Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that help send information from one part of the brain to another. If there is an imbalance in these chemicals, people may experience agitation or anxiety.

A naturally-occurring transmitter called GABA works to reduce the hyperactivity of the brain. Xanax increases the production and reuptake of GABA which slows down the brain’s activity.[2] People who take Xanax may experience less perceived anxiety, a sense of calmness, or drowsiness.

Over a prolonged period of use, the brain may begin to depend on the presence of Xanax to stay in balance. When taken as prescribed, Xanax is thought to be safe. However, if people increase their dose or start taking it more often than prescribed, they risk developing dependence on it. People who develop an addiction to Xanax may continue to take it during pregnancy, even if it is known to be unsafe.

The Dangers of Xanax Abuse While Pregnant

The side effects of Xanax abuse and addiction may harm the health and safety of both the pregnant person and the unborn baby.[3,4]

Dangers to Mother

When taken as prescribed, Xanax can cause poor memory and concentration and poses a risk of addiction. If someone abuses Xanax by taking more of it or taking it more often, these risks increase. The side effects of Xanax may be more potent and more damaging for pregnant people.

The transition to parenthood can be challenging, even when the parent and baby are healthy. Adding the immense stress of withdrawal–for mom, baby, or both–or significant health issues can make this transition even more challenging.

Dangers to Baby

Exposure to Xanax in utero can severely impact the health of an unborn baby. Babies with prenatal exposure to Xanax are more likely to develop congenital disabilities, including:

  • Cleft palate
  • Inguinal hernia
  • Microcephaly
  • Congenital hip dislocation

A baby whose mother was addicted to Xanax may also be born addicted to the drug. Babies born addicted to drugs go through the pain and discomfort of withdrawal after birth. Infants going through Xanax withdrawal may experience:

  • Excessive crying and irritability
  • Poor sleep
  • Difficulty sucking/eating
  • Poor muscle tone–also called floppy infant syndrome
  • Cyanosis–bluish skin
  • Seizures

When a baby goes through withdrawal immediately after birth, they may require care and supervision that interferes with mother-baby bonding. They are also more likely to experience lifelong health issues.

What to Do if You Are Using Xanax During Pregnancy

You must talk with your doctor about any prescription or illicit drugs you are taking. Your medical team must know that you take Xanax during pregnancy so they can offer the best care for you and your baby.

Xanax is highly addictive, and you must be aware of the signs of addiction if you take it during pregnancy.

The signs of addiction include:

  • Taking a medication that was not prescribed to you, or taking it in a different way than your doctor told you to
  • Requiring more of the drug to get the desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it or reduce your dose
  • Getting injured or into legal trouble while using the medication
  • Falling behind in your responsibilities at work, home, or school
  • Hiding, lying, or being secretive about using the medication
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from using the drug

If you stop taking Xanax suddenly, you may experience uncomfortable or dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Agitation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

If you abuse Xanax while pregnant, you must seek the support of a medically-supervised detox program and participate in a substance abuse program.

Get Help Now

Using drugs during pregnancy is extremely dangerous to yourself and your baby, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to get treatment and stay sober. If you or someone you love abuses Xanax during pregnancy, please contact the caring specialists at New Jersey Addiction Interventions today.



Medically Reviewed: August 30, 2022

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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