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

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Many women have postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety after giving birth. While it’s simple to take a prescription medicine such as Alprazolam (or Xanax) to calm your anxiety, you might be wondering, “is Xanax safe while breastfeeding?”

These drugs can pass through the breast milk and reach your baby in very small doses, which was determined in the study conducted by Oo et al. The researchers looked at the levels of maternal Alprazolam in the breast milk of mothers who received a daily dose of 0.5mg of the drug. The study revealed that the half-life of Alprazolam in breast milk is 14.5 hours. Therefore, it is necessary to consult your obstetrician before taking this drug.

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.

Point to consider
According to the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington, it is safe for people on chronic benzodiazepines to receive all benzodiazepine prescriptions from the same doctor and pharmacy as much as possible. This ensures better patient management (3).

Can You Take Xanax While Breastfeeding?

Babies may refuse to breastfeed if you take Xanax

Image: iStock

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.

Important Facts About Xanax

Abrupt discontinuation of Xanax may cause headaches

Image: Shutterstock

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.
Quick tip
If you miss taking a dose of Xanax on time, take it as soon as you remember, but not if it is closer to the time of your next dose. Do not double your dose (4).

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.

Side Effects Of Taking Xanax While Breastfeeding

Xanax may cause breathing problems

Image: iStock

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.

Can A Nursing Mother Take A Low Dose Of Xanax?

Pump out and discard the milk produced within 14 hours of taking a dose

Image: Shutterstock

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.

Quick fact
Xanax may give rise to life-threatening breathing problems, sedation, and coma if taken along with medications such as codeine, methadone, or morphine. So, inform your doctor about any medications you take or plan to take (5).

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

Tips To Manage Anxiety While Breastfeeding

Listen to music to manage your anxiety

Image: iStock

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 and 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How soon can I breastfeed after taking Xanax?

You need not wait to breastfeed after taking a single dose of alprazolam or Xanax (2). However, consult your Ob/Gyn to be safe and prevent adverse reactions.

2. Will alprazolam impact my breast milk?

Alprazolam may increase the serum prolactin level of your breast milk, but the increase does not adversely affect breastfeeding (2).

“Is Xanax safe while breastfeeding?,”- this is a common concern for most mothers who get a prescription for Xanax to treat postpartum depression or anxiety. Xanax (alprazolam) can pass through breast milk and reach the baby in smaller quantities. It is not often prescribed for lactating mothers due to possible side effects such as respiratory issues in babies. However, sometimes healthcare providers may prescribe Xanax if the benefits outweigh the risks. You may follow the doctor’s instructions to take medications and schedule feeding patterns or pumping and store breast milk before taking medications to reduce the complications in babies.

Infographic: Precautionary Measures To Be Followed By Nursing Mothers Taking Xanax

Xanax or Alprazolam is prescribed to lactating mothers when its risks outweigh its benefits. However, if you are a lactating mother taking Xanax, you should follow certain precautionary measures to ensure your and your baby’s safety. Go through the infographic below to know the same.

precautions when taking xanax during breastfeeding [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
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