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Lexapro Side Effects May Include Hypertension

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San Diego, CAA new study suggests that in addition to an increased risk of Lexapro birth defects, Lexapro side effects may include hypertension when a woman takes the antidepressant while pregnant. The study examined the use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs, a class of drug that includes Lexapro) while pregnant and found an increased risk of hypertension in the expectant mother.

The study was published online in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (3/22/12) and analyzed data from the Quebec Pregnancy Registry, comparing 1,216 women who were diagnosed with pregnancy-induced hypertension—but with no history of hypertension before the pregnancy—with around 12,000 control women. Researchers found that of the women with pregnancy-induced hypertension, 3.7 percent used an antidepressant during pregnancy, compared with 2.5 percent of women in the control group.

Use of an antidepressant during pregnancy was associated with a 53 percent increased risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension, while use of an SSRI was associated with a 60 percent increased risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension. Of all the SSRI medications, paroxetine (Paxil) was associated with the greatest risk. The study did not examine what impact the hypertension had on either the expectant mother or her fetus. It also did not examine whether the depression symptoms were affected by the use of the SSRI.

In other words, for some women, the risk of hypertension may be outweighed by the benefits of having treated depression.

Meanwhile, a study published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry (3/5/12) suggested that women who used an antidepressant during pregnancy—specifically an SSRI—were more likely to have babies with smaller head size. Furthermore, they were twice as likely to have a baby born prematurely. Data for the study came from women's responses to questionnaires. Women who took the SSRIs during pregnancy were found to have fewer depressive symptoms than those who had untreated depression.

A third study, conducted by researchers associated with the Connecticut Pregnancy Exposure Information Services, published in the Journal of Human Lactation (2/12) and reported by HealthDay News (3/13/12) found that women who used an SSRI during pregnancy were less likely to breastfeed their babies. Researchers reportedly found that women who took an SSRI during pregnancy—at any time during the pregnancy—were 60 percent less likely to breastfeed than women who did not take an antidepressant during pregnancy.

Other studies have suggested an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), autism, oral clefts and other birth defects when pregnant women use an SSRI.

Women who are pregnant and taking an SSRI are urged not to discontinue medication without first speaking to a doctor.

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