Doctors prescribe a wide variety of drugs and medicines for pregnant women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,1 the safety of medications for pregnant women is uncertain. It may also be complicated by a number of factors. Pregnant patients taking some medications have seen serious side effects, notably birth defects. If you use the antidepressant medication Lexapro® during pregnancy, you may suffer complications.
Why doctors prescribe Lexapro
Clinical studies2 show that between 14 and 23 percent of pregnant women will experience depression during their pregnancy. In 2003, doctors prescribed antidepressants to 13 percent of pregnant women. Lexapro (active ingredient escitalopram oxalate) is an antidepressant medicine. Doctors commonly prescribe Lexapro to patients suffering from depression. The medicine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor3 (or SSRI). SSRIs alter the balance of chemicals in the brain to counter the symptoms of various anxiety-related disorders. SSRIs can be effective in the treatment of moderate to severe depression.
The side effects of Lexapro
Patients using Lexapro may suffer a number of side effects, some of which can cause added discomfort during pregnancy.4 These include:
- Dry mouth
- Decreased appetite
- Tingling sensations
Some of these symptoms will subside within the first one or two months of taking the medication. Others may last longer. There are, however, some serious risks that can affect pregnancy health for women.
Lexapro and pregnancy complications
SSRIs may increase the risk of birth defects if you take them during pregnancy. These can include complications with the circulatory system in a developing fetus. Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), for example, is a rare condition where the baby's circulatory system cannot adapt outside the womb. This can lead to serious disability, or may even cause death. Other birth defects can also arise when women take Lexapro during pregnancy.
FDA advice on SSRIs
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Lexapro for the treatment of depression,5 but has also issued warnings about the prescription of SSRIs to pregnant women. Lexapro is a Category C medicine,6 which means that studies in animals have shown there may be a risk to the health of the unborn fetus. The FDA advises doctors and medical providers to carefully weigh the risks of prescribing Lexapro against the benefits. If you are pregnant and have questions about taking any form of medicine, you should talk to your doctor.
Lexapro can be an effective antidepressant medication, but for pregnant women, there is a risk of birth defects for the unborn child. If you have suffered a pregnancy complication after using Lexapro, you may be able to file a lawsuit. You should contact an attorney for advice as soon as possible.