Is Ativan (Lorazepam) Safe During Pregnancy?
Anxiety disorders affect 40 million in the United States each year 1 and women are twice as likely to experience an anxiety disorder than men.1 Women experiencing anxiety may be prescribed Ativan (generic name: lorazepam) to help manage their anxiety-related symptoms.2,3 However, Ativan is a member of the benzodiazepine class of medications — which has a known risk for misuse, dependence, and addiction 3 — and if you are pregnant, you may be wondering if Ativan during pregnancy is safe.
This page will discuss taking Ativan while pregnant, the potential risks, signs of Ativan misuse, and how to get help if you are struggling with Ativan misuse or addiction.
Using Ativan While Pregnant
All benzodiazepines cross the placenta and are excreted in breast milk. Lorazepam carries an FDA Category D rating, which means there is positive evidence of human fetal risk.4 The benefits of use, however, may be acceptable despite the risk.
Untreated anxiety disorders might lead to complications during pregnancy, such as pre-term delivery or low birth weight.4 It can also make it difficult to bond with your baby during pregnancy and after the baby is born, and can increase the risk of experiencing postpartum mood disorders.5
Ativan Risks of Misuse and Dependence
Ativan has been categorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule IV controlled substance, which means it has a known risk for misuse and dependence.7 Even when used as prescribed, Ativan use exposes people to the risks of dependence and misuse, which can lead to developing an addiction.3
Dependence is the natural physiological adaptation of the body to a drug. The body becomes so used to the presence of Ativan that it needs it to function normally. Then, when the individual significantly cuts back or stops their use altogether, withdrawal symptoms emerge. This can lead to some people to continue to use Ativan to avoid withdrawal symptoms.3
Addiction is a chronic, but treatable condition marked by the compulsive use of substances despite negative consequences to a person’s quality of life, physical or mental health.6
Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepine medications like Ativan can be life-threatening, and discontinuing the drug generally requires a slow taper managed by the prescribing physician.3
Ativan Use Risks
Using Ativan regularly during pregnancy can lead to sedation and withdrawal symptoms in the baby following birth. Symptoms of withdrawal can include:
- Irritability and crying.9
- Sleep disturbances.9
- Trouble breathing.9
- Trouble breathing.9
- Muscle weakness.9
Ativan Alternatives to Try While Pregnant
Managing an anxiety disorder can be important to having a healthy pregnancy.8,9 If your healthcare provider has determined that it is safe for you to use Ativan during your pregnancy, it may benefit you. If you do not wish to continue taking Ativan, there may be non-benzodiazepine medication or other alternatives you can discuss with your doctor.
Specific types of talk therapy, counseling, and mindfulness therapy can also be effective in treating anxiety disorders. Some see benefits from exercise.8
Signs of Ativan Misuse
Only a qualified healthcare professional can diagnose a substance use disorder. However, it can be helpful to know the signs of Ativan misuse so you can get help for yourself or a loved one.
There are specific criteria that healthcare providers use to diagnose a sedative hypnotic anxiolytic use disorder (the clinical term for addiction to benzodiazpines like Ativan). The criteria include:11
- A great deal of time is spent acquiring, using, or recovering from use of sedatives.
- A strong desire to or urge to use sedatives (cravings).
- The continued use of sedatives results in a failure to fulfill major obligations are work, school, or home.
- Continued sedative use in situations that are physically hazardous.
- Giving up or reducing important social, recreational, or occupational activities due to sedative use.
- Continued use of sedatives despite knowledge that it has caused or worsened physical or psychological problems.
- Symptoms of withdrawal if the use of sedatives is suddenly reduced or stopped.
How to Treat Ativan Addiction
It is important to seek qualified addiction treatment if you are struggling with an addiction to benzodiazepine medications, like Ativan.
Recovery First is an inpatient rehab near Miami that offers addiction-focused healthcare to help people get on the road to recovery from Ativan dependence and addiction. Each person that comes to Recovery First has a unique treatment plan that is tailored to their specific needs. Through a variety of evidence-based addiction treatment therapies, patients work with specialists to create lasting change.
Recovery First offers a range of addiction treatment levels, including:
- Medical detoxification.
- Inpatient addiction rehab.
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHP).
- Intensive outpatient programs (IOP).
- Telehealth addiction treatment.
If you have questions about how to pay for addiction treatment, using insurance to pay for rehab, or how to start rehab admissions, our navigators are a great resources to answer your questions.
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