Benzodiazepine use in pregnancy and major malformations or oral cleft: meta-analysis of cohort and case-control studies Academic Article uri icon

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  • OBJECTIVE: To determine if exposure to benzodiazepines during the first trimester of pregnancy increases risk of major malformations or cleft lip or palate. DESIGN: Meta-analysis. SETTING: Studies from 1966 to present. SUBJECTS: Studies were located with Medline, Embase, Reprotox, and from references of textbooks, reviews, and included articles. Included studies were original, concurrently controlled studies in any language. INTERVENTIONS: Data extraction and quality assessment were done independently and in duplicate. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Maternal exposure to benzodiazepines in at least the first trimester; incidence of major malformations or oral cleft alone, measured as odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals with a random effects model. RESULTS: Of over 1400 studies reviewed, 74 were retrieved and 23 included. In the analysis of cohort studies fetal exposure to benzodiazepine was not associated with major malformations (odds ratio 0.90; 95% confidence interval 0.61 to 1. 35) or oral cleft (1.19; 0.34 to 4.15). Analysis of case-control studies showed an association between exposure to benzodiazepines and development of major malformations (3.01; 1.32 to 6.84) or oral cleft alone (1.79; 1.13 to 2.82). CONCLUSIONS: Pooled data from cohort studies showed no association between fetal exposure to benzodiazepines and the risk of major malformations or oral cleft. On the basis of pooled data from case-control studies, however, there was a significant increased risk for major malformations or oral cleft alone. Until more research is reported, level 2 ultrasonography should be used to rule out visible forms of cleft lip.


  • Dolovich, Lisa
  • Addis, A
  • Vaillancourt, JMR
  • Power, JDB
  • Koren, G
  • Einarson, TR

publication date

  • September 26, 1998