New side effect found for benzodiazepines: ectopic pregnancy risk

Every time you take a medication, it should be after a careful review of the risks and benefits with your doctor. Many effective drugs that are considered generally safe enough to use have side effects that can be serious in some people. Never stop taking a medication prescribed by a doctor without first discussing it with that doctor.

Benzodiazepines are a set of drugs that are often prescribed for seizures, sleep problems and anxiety. There are a number of brand names, including Valium, Xanax and Klonopin.

A recent study found a new and troubling side effect that could occur after taking benzodiazepines. For women who took benzodiazepines 90 days before becoming pregnant, there could be an increased risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. In fact, women who take benzodiazepines within three months of conception could face a 47% higher risk of ectopic pregnancy.

According to the New York Times, the study controlled for other known risks for ectopic pregnancy, such as sexually transmitted diseases, use of an IUD, smoking, pelvic infections and some fertility treatments.

Unfortunately, ectopic pregnancies can be life-threatening. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants somewhere outside of the uterus, such as in a fallopian tube. When this happens, the pregnancy cannot come to term but could threaten the mother’s life. The implanted egg must be removed, either using medication or surgery.

Discuss alternative therapies if you are planning on becoming pregnant

According to the study’s lead author, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, women who are taking benzodiazepines should talk to their healthcare provider about alternative treatments if they are planning on getting pregnant. Ideally, the changeover to a new therapy would occur slowly and would take place before the woman gets off birth control.

If you became pregnant within 90 days of taking a benzodiazepine, you should tell your doctor. Your doctor will want to closely monitor your pregnancy, because early treatment is the key to saving lives in the case of ectopic pregnancy.

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