Xanax (also known by the name: Alprazolam) is a prescription drug used to treat individuals suffering from anxiety and panic related disorders with or without agoraphobia. These disorders can be present in any kind of person from anywhere in the world; even a pregnant woman. Xanax, while pregnant, first trimester is the focus of this article.
The stresses of everyday life are not something Xanax is not supposed to take away. Individuals with such diagnosis as “generalized anxiety disorder” have unrealistic or excessive anxiety and worry about two or more life situations, for a period of 6 months or longer, during which the individual has been bothered more days than not by these issues.
People suffering from a panic disorder have a specific set of characteristics with persistent unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is outlined as a discrete period of intense fear or discomfort in which four or even more than that amount of the following symptoms develop abruptly and reach a peak within 10 minutes:
- feeling of choking;
- numbness or tingling sensations;
- sensations of shortness of breath or smothering;
- palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate;
- chest pain or discomfort;
- trembling or shaking;
- fear of dying;
- nausea or abdominal distress;
- feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself;
- feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint;
- fear of losing control;
- chills or hot flushes.
Xanax is in the benzodiazepine class of drugs. Benzodiazepines affect the central nervous system causing a depressant effect. This “relaxing of the body” can impair a person’s ability to perform mild tasks or lead to hypnosis, depending on the dose and the body chemistry of the patient.
Once the drug has been taken orally it is absorbed into the body and is most potent one to two hours after the initial dose. However it stays in the body for anywhere between six to sixteen hours in healthy patients. Patients with pre-existing conditions like alcohol disease, reduced liver function and reduced kidney function, obesity and those within the geriatric community tend to hold the prescription in their body for longer periods of time.
Physicians and scientists have studied the effectiveness of Xanax and found that this drug works best on a short-term basis. The effectiveness was found to be different based on the condition it is being used to treat. The short-time effectiveness cap for anxiety is four months. When Xanax is used to treat anxiety the suggested cap for effectiveness is four to ten weeks however it has helped when the cap has been extended to eight months. Doctors should evaluate their patient’s needs to determine when the best time to discontinue use is.
Xanax, along with other benzodiazepines, are highly addictive in nature. It is widely available and needs to be monitored closely by a physician. It has been found that individuals taking 4mg/day for a period extended to twelve weeks have become dependent on the drug. However it can be taken for a shorter time coupled with a smaller dose and still become dependent. Withdrawal symptoms can be varied and include seizures.
Most women who get pregnant that have anxiety or panic disorders are in a difficult situation because they want the best for their developing baby but need to take care of themselves. It is best to know what happens during the first trimester to the developing fetus and how taking Xanax while pregnant impacts their health along with the health of the fetus. Health complications for a fetus can occur for a number of reasons and taking Xanax during early pregnancy is not recommended. Starting a regimen of Xanax during early pregnancy is not advised and alternative methods of relaxation such as: yoga, massage therapy, exercise, changes to diet and acupuncture are often suggested.
The first trimester of a pregnancy lasts from conception to thirteen weeks. The mother’s body goes through major hormonal, physical, and emotional changes. The first trimester is the one, out of the three, where the fetus is more susceptible to health risks. This is the trimester where there is the greatest risk for miscarriage. All major organs of the fetus are grown by the end of the thirteen weeks. Teeth begin to grow. Reproductive organs are forming during this time. Fingernails, toenails and outer ear structures are forming during this time. By the end of the first trimester the fetus has grown to approximately one ounce.
All drugs within the benzodiazepine family have the potential to cause congenital birth defects and Xanax is no exception. Xanax and early pregnancy do not mix. In the United States there was a pharmaceutical grading system adopted back in 1979 for pregnant women to understand what the potential ramifications were by taking a particular prescription drug. Xanax is listed as a category D drug. A category D drug is described as, “One where there is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks.”
Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax occur for the mother and child once it is born. The baby could have trouble sleeping and irritability. Additionally Xanax and pregnancy first trimester has been linked to neonatal depression in newborns, trademarked by depressed breathing that could potentially lead to death in some cases. The American Academy of Pediatrics statistic shows that there is the presence of delayed motor development and mental retardation in seven out of eight children that have in their health history information that their mothers used benzodiazepines while pregnant.