A popular anti-anxiety drug may be putting more than a million pregnant women at risk of miscarriage, a new study suggests.
Taiwanese researchers studied more than 3 million pregnancies in 2 million women and found that 4.4 percent, or 136,130, resulted in miscarriage.
They analyzed the medical histories of all the women studied and found that those who had been prescribed a class of benzodiazepines – used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia – were on average 70 percent more likely to miscarry than those who were not. pills.
Benzodiazepines, also called benzos, are a group of sedative drugs. The most well-known drugs are Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin.
The researchers also noted that this increased risk remained true even when other underlying factors, such as the woman’s age and health, were taken into account.
Benzodiazepines, also called benzos, are a group of drugs used to treat insomnia, seizures, and anxiety disorders. The most well-known drugs are Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin
The researchers also said their findings highlight the need for healthcare professionals to “carefully balance the risk-benefit ratio when considering the use of benzodiazepines for the treatment of psychiatric and sleep disorders during pregnancy.”
It is estimated that about 1.7 percent of pregnant women (about 1.2 million) are prescribed these drugs during the first trimester of pregnancy—a number that has been increasing in recent years.
Research,published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry,looked at miscarriages in women exposed to benzos only before pregnancy, only during pregnancy, and both.
Long-acting benzos that are processed more slowly in the body, such as Valium, showed a 67 percent increased risk of miscarriage, while short-acting benzos, such as Versed, showed a 66 percent increased risk.
Alprazolam, a generic version of Xanax, showed the lowest risk at 39 percent.
When used during pregnancy, benzos can cross the barrier between the mother and the placenta and expose the fetus to the drugs.
The researchers hypothesized that because benzodiazepines affect cell development and growth, exposure to benzodiazepines might cause fetal developmental abnormalities that could eventually lead to miscarriage.
Although studies show a link between benzos and miscarriages, researchers cannot determine a direct link.
The researchers took into account the underlying conditions that may have triggered the miscarriage, but did not take into account the influence of several factors such as smoking and anxiety.
The findings are noteworthy given the large number of pregnant women believed to be using the drug.
A 2020 study found that the international prevalence of benzos during pregnancy was 1.9 percent.
Meanwhile, another 2019 study found that two percent of pregnant women took at least one benzodiazepine during pregnancy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that less than 1 in 100 women took benzodiazepines or antipsychotics during pregnancy.
The CDC said researchers aren’t sure whether the birth defects or pregnancy complications are related to the drugs themselves or the underlying mental health problems the drugs are used to treat.
And women who used these types of drugs were more likely to have other factors that could increase the chance of birth defects and pregnancy complications.
Studies on the effect of benzos on pregnancy and the fetus have given conflicting results.
A 2022 study of more than 1.5 million children found that benzodiazepine exposure during pregnancy was not associated with an increase in neurodevelopmental disorders in children.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a group of OB-GYN physicians who provide medical recommendations to health care professionals and patients, stated that studies show that most antidepressants, including benzos, do not increase the risk of birth defects.
However, a 2020 study by researchers at Stanford University found that women who consumed benzos in the week before pregnancy had a 50 percent higher risk of having an ectopic pregnancy — a pregnancy that develops outside the uterus, which is fatal to both the fetus and the mother.
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