Benzodiazepines in pregnancy: Risks linked to increased miscarriage rates

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Recent research highlights concerns over benzodiazepine use during pregnancy, revealing a heightened risk of miscarriage.

Benzodiazepines in pregnancy: Risks linked to increased miscarriage rates | Image Credit: © Meeko Media - © Meeko Media - stock.adobe.com.

Benzodiazepines in pregnancy: Risks linked to increased miscarriage rates | Image Credit: © Meeko Media - © Meeko Media - stock.adobe.com.

A version of this article initially appeared on HCP Live.

A recent study suggests that the use of benzodiazepines during pregnancy might increase the likelihood of miscarriage.1

Takeaways

  1. Benzodiazepine use during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, with recent research suggesting a nearly 70% rise in miscarriage risk associated with its consumption.
  2. Around 1.7% of pregnant women are prescribed benzodiazepines during their first trimester, primarily to manage anxiety and insomnia.
  3. While earlier studies from the 1970s indicated potential birth defects from benzodiazepine exposure in early pregnancy, more recent findings have been inconsistent regarding these risks.
  4. A large-scale study from National Taiwan University, analyzing data from over 3 million pregnancies, reinforced concerns about benzodiazepine use during pregnancy and its association with miscarriage.
  5. Despite these findings, the study underscores the need for further caution, acknowledging limitations such as potential inaccuracies in data reporting and the importance of a comprehensive evaluation of risks versus benefits when prescribing benzodiazepines to pregnant women.

Many pregnant women with anxiety or sleep issues are given benzodiazepines, medications known for their calming and sleep-inducing effects. Approximately 1.7% of expectant mothers receive these drugs during their initial trimester.

Benzodiazepines may influence cell growth and differentiation. This characteristic raises concerns about potential fetal abnormalities and miscarriages.

Research from the 1970s indicated that benzodiazepine consumption in early pregnancy might elevate the risk of birth defects, including facial anomalies and heart irregularities.2 However, subsequent studies did not consistently support these findings. They did, however, associate benzodiazepine usage with reduced birth weight and a heightened risk of ectopic pregnancies.3,4

A past study also explored the miscarriage risk, considering various factors.1 This research found that pregnant women taking benzodiazepines had an 85% higher likelihood of miscarriage. Notably, this study did not account for factors like anxiety severity, other health conditions, financial status, lifestyle, and genetics.

Lin-Chieh Meng, MS, and a team from the Graduate Institute of Clinical Pharmacy at National Taiwan University, conducted a fresh investigation to assess the miscarriage risk tied to benzodiazepine use during pregnancy. Their large-scale study included around 3 million pregnancies.

The study utilized two main data sources spanning several years. The National Health Insurance database, covering over 99% of Taiwan's population, identified miscarriages. Another database provided information on live births and stillbirths.

The study encompassed over 3 million pregnancies involving almost 2 million women. The average participant age was 30.61 years. Out of these, 4.4% experienced miscarriages. The team paired these cases with control subjects, ensuring similarity in age, health conditions, medication use, and healthcare interactions.

The study design allowed the researchers to address time-related factors and minimize biases. They observed that benzodiazepine exposure within specific periods correlated with increased miscarriage risks.

The researchers also examined different types of benzodiazepines. The results consistently pointed towards an increased miscarriage risk, even with variations in exposure assessment.

However, the study had limitations, such as reliance on prescription data and potential inaccuracies in abortion reporting. The researchers emphasized caution when prescribing benzodiazepines to pregnant women and stressed the importance of considering both the benefits and potential risks.

This article was written with the help of ChatGPT.

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