Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. Recent research indicates that drugs included in this class may be associated with an increased risk of birth defects and autism when used during pregnancy.
Lexapro is marketed by Forest laboratories, and was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002. The medication is currently approved to treat:
Like other SSRIs, Lexapro works by blocking the reabsorption, or reuptake, of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.
Rare side effects that require medical attention include:
Common side effects associated with Lexapro include:
Less common side effects include:
The labels for Lexapro and other SSRI antidepressants include a Black Box Warning regarding a potential association with suicidal thoughts in children, adolescents and young adults. The Black Box, the FDA’s most serious safety alert, was originally added to the label in 2004 to warn of an increased risk of suicidality in children and adolescents. It was later expanded to include young adults, ages 18 to 24. Read More
Lexapro is a Pregnancy Category C drug, which indicates that its affects on a developing pregnancy are not well-studied. It should not be taken by expectant or nursing mothers unless the benefits outweigh the risks.
Recently, some studies have indicated that Lexapro and other SSRIs might be associated with an increased risk of certain birth defects. In 2006, the FDA issued a warning regarding a possible association between SSRI and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). However, conflicting studies have since caused the agency to backtrack.
Other birth defects that may be associated with the use of SSRIs include:
A recent study also found that children exposed to SSRIs during the last two trimesters of pregnancy were 117% more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
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