Pregnancy is a time of joy and anticipation. Unfortunately, it can also be a time filled with worry — especially if you’re dealing with mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. It’s valid to have concerns about the safety of taking antidepressants like Lexapro, or any other type of medication, during your pregnancy.
For your peace of mind and your baby’s safety, it’s really important to explore the risks associated with Lexapro and pregnancy. Then you can make an informed decision that’s right for you and your baby. Learn more about Lexapro during pregnancy here — we’re discussing everything you need to know.
Is Lexapro Safe During Pregnancy?
Can you take Lexapro while pregnant? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies the antidepressant medication Lexapro as a “Pregnancy Category C” drug. Essentially, this means risk can’t fully be ruled out, and more research should be done. Thus, the FDA recommends consulting your doctor before deciding if you should take Lexapro during pregnancy.
“Some studies show that Lexapro can cause problems with pregnancy, especially into the third trimester leading to respiratory problems with the newborn. Unfortunately, the beginning of pregnancy can sometimes trigger depression, so this is a question that’s better left to your doctor.”– Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
Can Lexapro cause birth defects?
When discussing Lexapro and pregnancy, we should point out that some research found that when mothers took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during their pregnancy (Lexapro is an SSRI), the babies had a slightly higher risk of developing certain congenital disabilities. However, it’s important to note that this increased risk was minimal. Most babies were born healthy and without complications related to a mother’s use of SSRIs during pregnancy.
It’s widely accepted that current research doesn’t necessarily suggest withholding antidepressant medication use, but the decision must be individualized and made by talking with your doctor.
What Happens If You Take Lexapro While Pregnant
Multiple studies seem to suggest that Lexapro likely won’t increase the risk of serious complications, but your doctor might not recommend it. The most common Lexapro side effects experienced by a pregnant woman include the following.
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Low birth weight and preterm labor/birth
Some studies show that Lexapro may increase the risk of low birth weight. It also might contribute to the chance of preterm birth.
One of Lexapro’s side effects for a pregnant woman may include withdrawal symptoms. Some babies born to mothers who took certain medications during pregnancy may experience withdrawal symptoms. Common signs of withdrawal can include excessive crying, tremors or shaking, poor feeding habits, sleep disturbances, irritability, and jitteriness.
What if You’re Already Taking Lexapro?
If you’re already taking Lexapro, it’s normal to worry and wonder — can you take Lexapro while pregnant? The bottom line: it’s critical to talk to your doctor about this or any other medication use.
You’ll want to consider how stopping your antidepressant might affect your mental health and well-being, of course. Unfortunately, for some people, discontinuing antidepressants can lead to a relapse in depression symptoms or even suicidal thoughts. If this happens, it can put both mother and baby at risk.
Your doctor will help you weigh the potential risks vs. benefits of stopping Lexapro during pregnancy. They’ll consider factors such as your medical history and current mental health status before making a recommendation.
“It’s important to discuss starting or stopping any medication with your doctor, especially if you are pregnant. Medications like Lexapro are excellent for treating depression, however only your doctor can help you make the decision on whether or not the risks outweigh the benefits.”– Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
Talk to a Psychiatrist About Safe Medications
When it comes to mental health, medication can be a powerful tool in managing symptoms. However, in the case of Lexapro and pregnancy, the risks must be carefully weighed. If you’re pregnant and considering psychiatrist-prescribed medication, or if you’re taking Lexapro and thinking about getting — or just found out you are — pregnant, talk to your psychiatrist or doctor about your options.
Talkspace helps provide online therapy and psychiatry so you have access to licensed therapists and psychiatrists from anywhere. Text messaging, phone calls, or video chat technology makes getting help simple and convenient. Finding a mental health care professional who specializes in treating depression during pregnancy allows expectant mothers greater flexibility when seeking professional help without leaving home.
For more details around potential side effects and interactions, learn about weight gain on Lexapro and the risks of taking Lexapro and alcohol.
- Marchocki Z, Russell NE, Donoghue KO. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and pregnancy: A review of maternal, fetal and neonatal risks and benefits. Obstetric Medicine. 2013;6(4):155-158. doi:10.1177/1753495×13495194. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5004326/. Accessed December 16, 2022.
- Klieger-Grossmann C, Weitzner B, Panchaud A, et al. Pregnancy outcomes following use of Escitalopram: A prospective comparative cohort study. The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2012;52(5):766-770. doi:10.1177/0091270011405524. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22075232/. Accessed December 16, 2022.
- Klieger-Grossmann C, Weitzner B, Panchaud A, et al. Pregnancy outcomes following use of Escitalopram: A prospective comparative cohort study. The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2012;52(5):766-770. doi:10.1177/0091270011405524. https://accp1.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0091270011405524. Accessed December 16, 2022.
- Escitalopram (Lexapro). NAMI. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Escitalopram-(Lexapro). Accessed December 16, 2022.
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