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Toxicol Ind Health. 2008 Feb-Mar;24(1-2):53-60. doi: 10.1177/0748233708089017.

An evaluation of data for 10 children born to mothers who attempted suicide by taking large doses of alprazolam during pregnancy.

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  • 1Foundation for the Community Control of Hereditary Diseases, Budapest, Hungary.


FDA has identified alprazolam, a new type of benzodiazepine, as pregnancy category D. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects on fetal development of very large doses of alprazolam that were used for suicide attempts during pregnancy. Pregnant women were identified among the patients of the Department of Toxicology Internal Medicine, Korányi Hospital, Budapest, who were admitted as self-poisoned subjects from a total population of the three million people of Budapest and its surrounding region. Rates of congenital abnormalities, intrauterine fetal development, and cognitive-behavioral status were compared between children born to mothers who attempted suicide during pregnancy using alprazolam alone or in combination with other drugs and in their sib controls. Between 1984 and 1993, 559 pregnant women attempted suicide during pregnancy with drugs: 30 of these women self-poisoned with alprazolam, 10 delivered live-born infants who were examined. Doses of alprazolam used were between 7.5 and 100 mg, with a mean of 30 mg. Six of the 10 exposed children were born to mothers who attempted suicide between the 6th and 12th postconceptional weeks. Of the 10 exposed children, two had congenital abnormalities. One had a multiple congenital abnormality that included atypical gastroschisis and minor anomalies; an association of this defect and the 30 mg alprazolam used for self-poisoning in the 14th postconceptional week cannot be excluded. Another exposed child had mild pectus excavatum, but the times of the suicide attempt and the critical period for producing this defect did not overlap. Of 12 sibs, one had a multiple congenital abnormality. Thus, the rate of congenital abnormalities did not significantly differ between exposed children and their sibs. Mean birth weight was higher for babies born to mothers who attempted suicide by alprazolam during pregnancy than in their sib controls. Cognitive status and behavioral scale of the exposed children did not indicate fetotoxic effects, including neurotoxic effects, of large doses of alprazolam. The large doses of alprazolam used for self-poisoning during pregnancy did not result in a significantly higher rate of congenital abnormalities; however, there were only 10 self-poisoned pregnant women, and an association of one multiple congenital abnormality with a large dose of alprazolam cannot be excluded. The findings in this study did not identify fetotoxicity, including neurotoxicity, of very large doses of alprazolam. Our study shows that the self-poisoning model is feasible and provides beneficial information for use in estimating human teratogenic and fetotoxic risks of drugs.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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