Effects of exposure to benzodiazepine during fetal life

Lancet. 1992 Sep 19;340(8821):694-6. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(92)92232-5.


Dysmorphism and mental retardation have been reported in 7 Swedish children born of mothers who had taken high doses of benzodiazepines regularly during pregnancy. To explore this association further, we examined benzodiazepine use during pregnancy in 104,000 women whose deliveries were registered by the US public health insurance system, Medicaid, during 1980-83. Fetal outcomes were assessed from the health claims profiles of their offspring, up to 6-9 years after delivery. 80 pregnant women had received 10 or more benzodiazepine prescriptions during the 4 years. Their records showed heavy general use of health care and frequent alcohol and substance abuse, and other disorders that could confound any effect of the benzodiazepines. For the 80 pregnancies, 3 intrauterine deaths were identified as well as 2 infants with congenital abnormalities whose curtailed records suggested neonatal death. Records of 64 surviving children could be linked to these 80 pregnancies whilst records for 11 apparent survivors could not be located. 6 of the 64 survivors had diagnoses consistent with teratogenic abnormalities. The high rate of teratogenicity after heavy maternal benzodiazepine use occurs with multiple alcohol and substance exposure and thus may not be due to benzodiazepine exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / etiology
  • Fetus / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Pregnancy
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome
  • United States


  • Benzodiazepines