Is It Safe To Take Alprazolam (Xanax) While Breastfeeding?

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Postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety is a reality faced by many! While it is easy to take a medicine like alprazolam or Xanax to ease the jangling nerves, give a thought about how wise it is to do while breastfeeding.

These medications can cross the breast milk and enter your infant in minute doses. A study conducted by Oo, Kuhn, and Desai, in Br J Clin Pharmacol, revealed that the half-life of alprazolam in the milk is 14.5 hours. The study looked at the maternal alprazolam levels in the breast milk of mothers who consumed 0.5mg of the drug every day.

Now, does it harm the nursing baby? Is this commonly prescribed medication safe or unsafe during breastfeeding? Read on to know the details. MomJunction has gathered vital information about the consumption of Xanax while breastfeeding.

What is Xanax?

Xanax (a brand name of the generic drug alprazolam) is a commonly prescribed medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It belongs to benzodiazepines drug class that includes drugs known to enter the breast milk.

Can You Take Xanax While Breastfeeding?

It is advised to avoid Xanax during the lactation period. Because the drug enters infants in small amounts through breastmilk. Even though the ingested dosages are not lethal, they can cause respiratory issues and sedation in babies. Do mention to your physician that you are breastfeeding before they prescribe any medication to you. If your healthcare provider still recommends Xanax while nursing, watch for side effects in your baby.

Some common health discomforts that the baby experiences as a result of Alprazolam are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Weight loss
  • Feeding problems or refusal to breastfeed
  • Lethargy

Note: Remember, a doctor’s prescription is required to take any medication during breastfeeding.

[ Read: Safe Medications While Breastfeeding ]

Important Facts About Xanax

To have a deeper understanding, let us learn some more vital facts about Xanax.

  • It is one of the most popularly prescribed psychiatric medications in the US.
  • You can find Xanax in four basic dosage strengths 0.25mg, 0.5mg, 1mg and 2mg in the market.
  • Xanax comes in a bar-shaped pill (commonly called Xanax bars) that is scored so it can be broken into smaller doses.
  • Xanax pills are white, but the generic form of the drug may be yellow or green.
  • With the same dosage, Xanax is 20 times more potent than another benzodiazepine Valium.
  • The medication works by elevating the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA in the human brain. It promotes calmness and makes you feel relaxed.
  • The quick-acting effect and short half-life make people addicted to Xanax.

Abrupt discontinuation of this medication leads to withdrawal symptoms like tremors, sweating, depression, suicidal thoughts, and headache. Even your baby can show the withdrawal symptoms like irritability, crying, and sleep disturbances.

An overdose of Xanax during breastfeeding may result in mild to severe health troubles including drowsiness, headache, confusion, impaired coordination and body pain. A combined overdose with alcohol, illicit drugs or antidepressants may result in high toxicity.

Xanax may increase the prolactin levels, thereby, boosting the milk production (1). But the increase in the prolactin level decreases progesterone levels, affecting hormone levels and mood.

It is imperative to take only the prescribed dosage of Xanax during both pregnancy and breastfeeding (2).

[ Read: Zoloft While Breastfeeding ]

Side Effects Of Taking Xanax While Breastfeeding

The side effects range from mild to severe and depend on the dosage. Most side effects are innocuous. They tend to fade away over time. Seek medical attention immediately after experiencing any side effects.

Most common side effects of Xanax include constipation, swelling of extremities, insomnia, dry mouth, dizziness, drowsiness, amnesia, changes in libido, headache, changes in vision.

Severe side effects include depression, short-term memory loss, jaundice, respiratory problems, slurred speech, suicidal ideation, unsteadiness, impaired coordination, urinary retention, and vertigo.

Typical signs of allergy are breathing problems and swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat.

Any side effect or allergy associated with Xanax should be reported to the prescribing physician.

[ Read: Is Effexor Safe While Breastfeeding ]

Can A Nursing Mother Take A Low Dose Of Xanax?

A single dose of Xanax need not stop a lactating mother from breastfeeding. If you have to take a single Xanax dose, for the 14-hour period.

Pump out the milk and discard for 14 hours after taking medicine, to ensure that Xanax is out of your system and signal the breasts to continue milk production. Then, you can resume breastfeeding.

However, regular ingestion of the medication can cause several health complexities in your baby. If you have to use Xanax regularly for a period, and if your physician feels that the benefits of Xanax outweigh breastfeeding, which is rarely the case, you may have to consider arranging donor milk for your baby, or weaning your baby or offer formula milk.

Further, consult the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or your doctor if you can get another drug. The alternatives for Xanax include Lorazepam, and Oxazepam (3).

Note: Inform your doctor about all the medications you are taking before he prescribes Xanax.

[ Read: Is Paxil Safe During Breastfeeding ]

Tips To Manage Anxiety While Breastfeeding

It is common to feel stressed out and nervous during your lactation period. Opt for one of these natural ways to cope with it:

  • Take time out from your busy routine to indulge in recreational activities such as listening to music, practicing yoga, meditation or getting a body massage done. Listening to music while breastfeeding is known to calm the nerves and increase milk supply.
  • Do not hesitate to seek help from your partner or a family member to baby.
  • Take in a well-balanced diet and do not skip your meals. Energy-boosting foods help remain active.
  • Limit caffeine avoid alcohol completely. They can easily aggravate anxiety and cause panic attacks.
  • Sleep well and rest enough. Resting helps you get rid of harmful toxins.
  • Remain positive and welcome humor in life. Negative thoughts lead to depression.
  • Talk to your friends and family. Let them know how you feel about parenting your newborn baby.

In conclusion, alprazolam or Xanax is not the best benzodiazepine drug for repeated use while breastfeeding, especially, if you are feeding a premature infant or a neonate. Check with your doctor if you can take a shorter-acting benzodiazepine with no active metabolites, to deal with anxiety during the period of breastfeeding.

Did you take Xanax during breastfeeding? Did you experience any withdrawal symptoms? Share your experience with other mommies here.

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Dr. Priya Shashank

Dr. Priya Shashank is a lactation consultant and childbirth educator, striving to bring about a change in the way childbirth and breastfeeding are perceived in India. She works with expecting couples to educate them about childbirth and the initial days with the baby, and helps new moms and babies settle down into breastfeeding routine comfortably. Working from Ludhiana in Punjab,... more

shreeja pillai

Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. As a writer, she aims at providing informative articles on health and pharma, especially related to... more