August 21, 2020

Benzodiazepines Are Linked to Higher Risk of Ectopic Pregnancy

Benzodiazepines Are Linked to Higher Risk of Ectopic Pregnancy

Over 100,000 ectopic pregnancies occur in the United States each year. Some of the known risk factors for ectopic pregnancy include: previous ectopic pregnancy, endometriosis, prior pelvic or abdominal surgery, prior sexually transmitted infection, smoking, and infertility. However, approximately half of women who experience an ectopic pregnancy have no known risk factors. A recent study examined nearly 1.7 million pregnancies. The study concluded that benzodiazepines are linked to higher risk of ectopic pregnancy. The investigators found that women who filled a benzodiazepine prescription in the 90 days prior to pregnancy were almost 50% more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy compared to women who did not fill a benzodiazepine prescription prior to pregnancy. These findings benzodiazepines are linked to higher risk of ectopic pregnancy.

What are the uses for benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are prescribed under numerous brand names including Valium or Xanax. They are most commonly sold by prescription to treat:

  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Panic disorders
  • Seizures
  • Sleeplessness
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Premenstrual syndrome

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside a woman’s uterus. In more than 90% of cases, the egg implants in a fallopian tube and are sometimes called a tubal pregnancy. Symptoms include abdominal pain, absence of menstrual period, and vaginal bleeding.

How can benzodiazepines possibly cause an ectopic pregnancy?

One possible theory is that benzodiazepines impact muscular contractions with the fallopian tube, thus increasing a woman’s risk of a tubal pregnancy. Additional studies are necessary to better understand this association. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that women who are trying to conceive should limit their exposure to benzodiazepines if at all possible.

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Beth Plante, M.D.

Beth Plante, M.D. Board-Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility