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It’s normal to feel anxious from time to time. However, if you have persistent feelings of anxiety and worry, or if you get severe, sudden panic attacks, you may be one of the tens of millions of American adults with an anxiety disorder.
BuSpar® is one of several medications used to treat anxiety. It’s often used due to its lower risk of causing side effects compared to other anti-anxiety medications.
If you’re prescribed BuSpar or generic buspirone (the active ingredient in BuSpar), you may be curious about whether it’s safe to continue using your medication while you’re pregnant.
BuSpar is an FDA pregnancy-risk category B drug, meaning animal studies have failed to show any risks associated with its use during pregnancy. However, it’s still important to talk with your healthcare provider before using this medication while you’re pregnant.
Below, we’ve explained what BuSpar is and how it works as a medication for anxiety, as well as what you should know about BuSpar and pregnancy.
We’ve also discussed the safety of using BuSpar while breastfeeding, as well as side effects to be aware of while you use this medication.
BuSpar is an anti-anxiety medication that contains the active ingredient buspirone. It was initially developed as an antipsychotic medication, but was repurposed as an anxiety treatment after its ability to reduce feelings of anxiety and worry was observed in research.
Currently, BuSpar is approved by the FDA to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It’s also used in combination with other medications to treat major depression.
Experts aren’t precisely aware of how BuSpar works to treat anxiety, but research suggests that it likely targets receptors for serotonin — a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for controlling your moods, as well as feelings of anxiety and happiness.
BuSpar takes two to four weeks to start working, meaning it’s usually prescribed to treat anxiety in the long term, not as an acute anxiety medication.
Compared to benzodiazepines and antidepressants — two other classes of medications that are often used to treat anxiety disorders — BuSpar is less likely to cause side effects and withdrawal symptoms.
In fact, BuSpar is sometimes prescribed as an augmentation agent (a medication that’s used at the same time as another) to treat sexual side effects caused by common antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
This reduced risk of side effects and withdrawal symptoms makes BuSpar a common choice for people who experience issues while using benzodiazepines or SSRIs to treat anxiety.
Our full guide to medications for anxiety goes into more detail about how BuSpar works, as well as how it compares to other popular anxiety treatments.
BuSpar is a pregnancy category B medication, meaning animal studies have now displayed any risk to the fetus during pregnancy.
However, there currently isn’t sufficient data about BuSpar and pregnancy from studies involving humans to know if buspirone poses any potential risks during pregnancy.
If you’re prescribed BuSpar and either become pregnant or plan to become pregnant in the near future, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you can. They’ll be able to tell you whether or not it’s safe to continue using BuSpar.
Research suggests that small amounts of BuSpar can pass into breast milk, meaning that it may be consumed by a breastfeeding infant. However, this same study noted that buspirone was undetectable in several instances in infants. It’s not yet known if BuSpar or generic buspirone can cause health issues in infants.
If you’re breastfeeding and use BuSpar, talk to your healthcare provider. They may recommend continuing treatment with BuSpar, making changes to your dose or medication usage, or taking a different type of medication while you breastfeed.
Although BuSpar is less likely to cause side effects than many other medications for anxiety, it can still cause adverse effects, some of which may be persistent or bothersome.
Common side effects of BuSpar include:
Ataxia (lack of coordination)
Burning or prickling sensations
Elevated liver enzyme levels
Outbursts of anger
Muscle pain and/or joint pain
If you develop side effects while using BuSpar that don’t improve on their own, make sure to let your healthcare provider know. They may suggest adjusting your dosage or making changes to the way you use BuSpar to reduce the severity or frequency of your side effects.
BuSpar can interact with other medications, substances and foods. Some interactions, such as those that involve antidepressants and other medications that raise serotonin levels, can cause a severe, potentially life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome.
Medications that can interact with BuSpar include:
Anticonvulsants, including carbamazepine, phenobarbital and phenytoin
Other anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications (SSRIs)
Other medications used to treat depressive symptoms
Antibiotics, such as erythromycin
Pain medications and narcotics
Medications for insomnia
In addition to the medications above, grapefruit juice and products containing grapefruit should be avoided while using BuSpar or generic buspirone.
To reduce your risk of experiencing drug interactions from BuSpar, tell your healthcare provider about any medications you currently use, as well as any medications or supplements you have used in the past 14 days.
It’s especially important to tell your healthcare provider if you’ve used any monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) — a class of medications used to treat depression — as these may contribute to a significant risk of developing high blood pressure and/or serotonin syndrome.
Right now, experts are still studying BuSpar and pregnancy. At the moment, there’s no evidence to suggest that BuSpar causes birth defects when it’s used on its own, although the combination of BuSpar and other medications may increase certain risks.
If you’re prescribed BuSpar for anxiety, it’s important to speak to your healthcare provider about BuSpar and pregnancy to find out if it’s safe for you to continue using your medication.
Your healthcare provider may suggest continuing to use BuSpar as normal, making changes to your dosage or switching to a more suitable medication while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Make sure to closely follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and let them know if you feel any changes in your anxiety symptoms or develop any side effects.
Anxiety is a common mental illness, and the symptoms of anxiety can be particularly difficult to deal with during pregnancy.
If you’re concerned that you might have an anxiety disorder, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional.
You can get help by asking your primary care provider for a mental health referral or reaching out to a mental health specialist in your area. You can also access treatment from home using our online mental health services, including our psychiatry service.
If appropriate, you’ll receive medication to help you control your anxiety symptoms, as well as access to online individual therapy.
You can also learn more about coping with stress, anxiety and other mental health issues with our free online mental health resources.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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