United Kingdom. The Committee on Safety of Medicines has issued a reminder that the use of benzodiazepines should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. The following points were highlighted:
. Benzodiazepines cross the placenta and there is a risk of adverse effects in the fetus. If benzodiazepines are administered at high doses, during late pregnancy or during labour, effects on the neonate may occur, such as hypothermia, hypotonia and moderate respiratory depression.
. Infants born to mothers who take benzodiazepines chronically during the latter stages of pregnancy may develop physical dependence and be at risk of developing withdrawal symptoms in the post-natal period (irritability or difficulty with feeding).
. If a benzodiazepine is prescribed to a woman of childbearing potential, she should be advised to contact her physician regarding discontinuation of the drug if she intends to become pregnant or suspects that she is pregnant.
. Since benzodiazepines are excreted in breast milk, they should not be given to lactating mothers.
Reference: Current Problems in Pharmacovigilance Vol. 23, September 1997.