benzodiazepine use in pregnancy and breast feeding

Last reviewed 07/2021

  • benzodiazepines cross the placenta - there is a risk of adverse effects in the fetus
    • during late pregnancy, or during labour, high doses may result in neonatal hypotonia and/or hypothermia. A mild neonatal respiratory distress may occur.
    • physical dependence may occur in infants born to mothers who take benzodiazepines chronically
    • benzodiazepines are excreted in the breast milk and therefore should not be given to lactating mothers

NICE state that (2):

  • benzodiazepines should not be routinely prescribed for pregnant women, except for the short-term treatment of extreme anxiety and agitation. This is because of the risks to the fetus (for example, cleft palate) and the neonate (for example, floppy baby syndrome). Consider gradually stopping benzodiazepines in women who are pregnant


  1. CSM (1997), 23, 10.
  2. NICE (2007). Antenatal and postnatal mental health