Benzodiazepines Increase Risk Of Miscarriage: Study

Benzodiazepines Increase Risk Of Miscarriage: Study

Benzodiazepines are the popular pill to pop whenever you feel a little nervous, anxious, can’t sleep, or just want to “relax and get a little buzz on.”

Benzos, as they’re called, come with serious risks, however. And scientists in Canada have just found another serious risk for anyone who is pregnant, or considering pregnancy. The study warns that the use of benzodiazepines during pregnancy, particularly early pregnancy, is associated with spontaneous abortion (SA), often called miscarriage.

The Canadian study in the Province of Quebec examined nearly half-a-million pregnancies and found that “any benzodiazepine use during early pregnancy is associated with spontaneous abortion, and that health care clinicians should carefully evaluate the risk-benefit ratio of benzodiazepine use for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders or insomnia during early pregnancy.”

Widely used & abused

Benzos are widely used to treat agitation, anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms and seizures, and alcohol withdrawal, among many uses. In the past decade or two, benzodiazepine use has increased both as legitimate prescriptions and also as “self-medication,” recreational use, and often combined with other drugs to enhance their effects.

All benzodiazepines act on the central nervous system, and like opioids they can depress respiration (breathing), and cause coma and death – especially when combined with opioids. An estimated 30 percent of opioid-related deaths involve benzodiazepines.

They’re also addictive, and can lead to all the problems associated with any substance use disorders. That’s why they’re listed by the DEA as schedule IV controlled substances, meaning they have the potential for abuse, addiction and diversion.

Pass into the placenta

Benzodiazepines have already been shown to pass into the placenta, and they are associated with certain birth defects, the Quebec study points out. Other past studies have also “linked” the drugs to miscarriage, but there are many different classes and kinds of benzos, and no study has yet differentiated which of those can cause the problem. The Canadians set out to learn if all versions carry the same risk.

Exposure to benzos was defined as “1 or more filled prescriptions between the first day of the last menstrual period and the index date (the calendar date of the SA diagnosis).” Exposure to the drugs was categorized by “overall use, long- or short-acting benzodiazepine, and specific benzodiazepine agents.” The study looked at the detailed medical records of 442,066 pregnant patients from January 1, 1998, through December 31, 2015.

Most patients only used benzodiazepines for about two weeks. Yet every type of benzo increased the risk of miscarriage, and each carried its own level of risk.

All types risky

Benzodiazepine exposure during early pregnancy raised the risk of spontaneous abortion in three separate, independent study models that carefully quantified benzo use by class, duration of action and specific benzodiazepine drugs.

The lowest risk found was for Dalmane (flurazepam) at 1.13 times that of nonusers of any benzos. The highest risk was for Valium (diazepam), 3.43 times that of nonusers. And remember, every kind of benzo caused an increased risk of miscarriage.

“Anxiety and mood disorders need to be treated during pregnancy,” the study authors said. “Given the high prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders during pregnancy, physicians need to evaluate the risk and benefits of using benzodiazepines given that alternative non-pharmacologic treatments exist.”

If you or someone you know is pregnant or considering pregnancy, by all means take this study to heart and make sure benzodiazepines are avoided if at all possible. As the study authors said, doctors need to be made aware of this study – and there are non-drug solutions to anxiety and mood disorders that don’t put the mother and baby at risk.

For help with any substance use disorder problems, don’t hesitate to call Novus. We’re always here to help.

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