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Can we use anxiolytics during pregnancy without anxiety?: In moderation

Antonio Addis, PHARMD; Lisa R. Dolovich, PHARMD; Thomas R. Einarson, PHD; Gideon Koren, MD, FRCPC

March, 2000



One of my patients suffers from anxiety and was using lorazepam to treat it. When she became pregnant, she stopped the medication immediately, but now she is worried about the potential effect on the baby because she was using the drug just after conception. Is this class of drugs safe during pregnancy? What should she do if she needs antianxiety treatment during the rest of her pregnancy?


Evidence to date from cohort studies did not identify a notable association between use of benzodiazepines and increased risk of major malformations, including oral cleft. In contrast, data from case-control studies show a slightly increased risk of oral cleft. Hence, level 2 ultrasonography is recommended to rule out visible forms of cleft lip. Using benzodiazepines late in pregnancy could cause withdrawal syndrome in newborns.

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