Is It Safe To Take Lexapro During Pregnancy?

Image: iStock

Martha suffered from postpartum depression after her first child and was prescribed Lexapro (escitalopram) for it. She was on this medication for long, but when she found that she was pregnant with the second child, she stopped taking it.

She wasn’t sure if Lexapro is safe to take during pregnancy. If you too are dealing with depression but are worried about taking Lexapro during pregnancy, this post is for you.

MomJunction tells you about the safe usage of Lexapro (escitalopram) when you are pregnant.

What Is Lexapro (Escitalopram)?

Lexapro (escitalopram) belongs to a group of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that alter the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin influences the mood and eases depression. The drug is, therefore, used to treat panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Lexapro is a brand name of the generic drug escitalopram (1).

Back to top

Can You Take Lexapro While Pregnant?

No, it is not safe to take Lexapro during pregnancy as it can affect the mother and the baby. The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) ranks Lexapro under category C, which means animal studies have shown adverse effects on the unborn baby, and there are no well-controlled studies in humans.

Lexapro is prescribed for pregnant women only when its potential benefits outweigh the possible risks to the mother or the unborn. The doctor will also consider your gestational age before recommending this drug.

In short, this drug can be taken when there is no other option (1).

[ Read: Is It Safe To Take Citrucel During Pregnancy? ]

Back to top

What If You Have Already Taken Lexapro (Escitalopram) During Pregnancy?

If you have been on Lexapro before your pregnancy or have taken it during pregnancy but without any prescription, let your doctor know about it. She can decide whether you can continue or require any other alternative.

Do not stop taking the medication abruptly as it could be dangerous for both you and the unborn. Always take your doctor’s advice before withdrawing from the medicine.

Back to top

Problems Associated With Weaning Off Lexapro While Pregnant:

Abrupt termination of the medication could result in withdrawal symptoms such as (2):

  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in the hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty falling asleep

SSRI use and withdrawal during pregnancy can lead to certain health problems in babies after birth (3):

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Breathing problems
  • Jitteriness
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Tremors

Back to top

What Are The Side Effects Of Taking Lexapro During Pregnancy?

Recent studies conclude that Lexapro could result in several birth defects in the newborn baby. Some of them are discussed next.

1. Neonatal persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN):

According to a public health advisory issued by the USFDA in 2006, antidepressants such as Lexapro and other SSRIs can cause PPHN in babies.

With this condition, the baby may have difficulty breathing once delivered. Severe case of PPHN can lead to death (4).

2. Premature birth:

Studies show that using this medication post the first trimester can lead to pregnancy-induced hypertension, an increased risk of miscarriage and even premature birth. It was also found that babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are likely to experience health concerns (5).

[ Read: Depression During Pregnancy ]

3. Autism spectrum disorder:

Use of SSRIs such as Lexapro  may increase the risk of Autism spectrum disorder, which can impair the child’s ability to interact with people, communicate and develop language skills as they grow (6).

4. Newborn behavioral syndrome:

The intake of Lexapro and other SSRIs during pregnancy may cause the newborn behavioral syndrome in infants. The symptoms are feeding difficulties, constant crying, jitteriness, breathing problem and seizures (7).

5. Cleft lip:

According to the Cleft Lip and Palate Foundation, one of the common birth defects that result from SSRIs is facial malformations such as cleft lip and palate.

While cleft lip leaves a gap in the upper lip, the cleft palate creates a gap in the palate when parts of the baby’s face do not join properly during development (8).

6. Omphalocele:

Although early studies do not suggest that SSRI intake during pregnancy increases the risk of omphalocele, recent studies indicate otherwise.

Omphalocele is an abnormality in the abdominal wall where the bowel and intestines are outside the baby’s belly. It, therefore, leads to damage of abdominal cavity, organ, and infections (9).

[ Read: Birth Defects Caused By Accutane Intake In Pregnancy ]

A healthy diet with the right supplements an active lifestyle, and even counselling can help with depression as well. However if you still think you need to take antidepressants, please consult with your provider.

Back to top

What’s your opinion on taking Lexapro (escitalopram)? Let us know in the below comment section.

Recommended Articles: