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THE UNBORN CHILD AND BENZODIAZEPINES

Benzodiazepines pass through the placenta reaching high concentrations in the foetus
Prescribing of benzodiazepines to young women rose in the '90s in spite of warnings at that time[1]
Rising numbers of unborn babies are exposed to benzodiazepines as misuse increases.
Benzodiazepines can be more hazardous to the newborn than heroin.


THE RISKS

  • Direct effects of the drug
    causing "floppy infant syndrome".


  • The effects of withdrawal from BDZs at birth or later, can be protracted (up to a year).


  • Low birth weight.


  • Interference with foetal neurodevelopment


  • Breastfeeding - BDzs are passed to the baby in breast milk.


  • Long term BDZ use impairs parental health, compounding the risks to the child.
  • "Floppy infant syndrome".
    Some newborn babies fail to metabolize BDZs,causing apnoea, lack of muscle tone, feeding difficulties, drowsiness and unstable temperature control.

  • Neonatal drug withdrawal.
    Severe withdrawal symptoms, which can require weeks or months in hospital.


  • Low birth weight: A recent study shows prenatal BDZ exposure associated with low birth weight: [abstract]


  • Neurodevelopmental effects. Research into the effects of BDZs on foetal neurodevelopment continues to emerge, leading to later neurodevelopmental deficits/ neurobehavioral problems.

The infant brain undergoes massive developmental activity and fourfold increase in bulk in the last two months of gestation and the first months after birth. This is a crucially vulnerable time for a baby.

Research showing that BDZs pass through the placenta causing effects such as "floppy infant syndrome"[1] with respiratory depression, hypothermia, feeding difficulties, abnormal heart rate, abnormal EEG[2] and withdrawal syndrome, has been reported since the early seventies.

Paediatricians, from Sweden and England voiced their concern in letters to the Lancet in 1977[3,4]

Some newborn babies cannot adequately metabolize BDZs which then accumulate and remain active in the baby's system. Symptoms ranging from: "mild sedation, hypotonia, reluctance to suck, to apnoeic spells, cyanosis and impaired metabolic responses to cold stress" have been reported "for periods from hours to months after birth."[1]

It has been observed that both the symptoms of withdrawal from BDZs and the symptoms caused by the 'active drug'('floppy infant syndrome') can be protracted for anything up to 1 year in some babies. [10] in the

The high risk to the neonate from apnoeic spells (possibly leading to SIDS) and the accumulation of BDZs in infants unable to metabolise them, together with the danger of impaired mental development was stated. [ Rowlatt 1978][5]

Warnings of the above have been available from the manufacturers for over ten years and newborn babies so affected may need treatment in special care baby units.

Flumazenil, a BDZ antagonist which reverses the effects of BDZs (licenced for use in surgical procedures and overdose), has been used in emergencies at birth, (not under licence) successfully reversing most of the above adverse effects in neonates .(6,7,8,9.)

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* NB: The owner of this site wishes to make clear that a significant proportion of people who take benzodiazepines (both babies and adults) do not suffer the adverse consequences featured here. The concern of Benzact is the significant proportion of those who are adversely affected by benzodiazepines.

DISCLAIMER: Information on this site is not intended as medical advice in any context and personal health concerns should be directed to a relevant qualified professional.

Not all views expressed on this site are necessarily the views of the owner.