Benzodiazepine use and dependence are on the rise as well as the number of deaths attributable to the combination of opioids and benzodiazepines. Anxiety, the most frequent condition for which benzodiazepines are prescribed, occurs commonly, and is increasingly noted to coincide with pregnancy. Use of both benzodiazepine anxiolytics and anxiety in pregnancy is associated with preterm delivery and low birth weight. Short-term neonatal effects of hypotonia, depression, and withdrawal are described but long-term sequelae, if any, are poorly understood. Benzodiazepines are associated with physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms which can be serious. To avoid withdrawal, tapering off these medications is recommended. What is known about the pharmacology and pharmacokinetics, pregnancy implications, tapering schedules, and alternative strategies for anxiety are discussed.
*St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri
†Kaiser Permanente, Denver, Colorado
‡St. Louis College of Pharmacy, St. Louis, Missouri
The authors declare that they have nothing to disclose.
Correspondence: Jaye M. Shyken, MD, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, St. Louis University, Suite 2800, Richmond Heights, MO. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org