As we’ve discussed, there are many drugs in the SSRI and SSNRI class that can result in serious birth defects should fetuses be exposed to them. These defects range from vascular and respiratory disorders to outright deformations such as clubbed feet and misshapen skulls in the children. Any of these conditions is frightening and heartbreaking for a parent.
Lexapro is an SSRI, and as with most such drugs is used to treat several problems. In this case, it treats both depression and anxiety disorders. This means that it is more likely to be widely used than a single-target drug, especially because these two conditions are known to overlap. More use means more potential for exposure, and with few to no studies available showing that the medicine is safe to use in pregnant women, the picture becomes rather dire.
Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN) has been discussed, but it is important to fully understand how it works and what effects it has on the children forced to cope with it. In PPHN, the arteries in the lungs are consistently being squeezed. This restricts the amount of blood that can move through these vessels, which increases blood pressure. As blood pressure increases, blood is unable to spend as much time in the lungs, and the rate of oxygen renewal drops. This makes it hard to breathe or catch your breath. Imagine how difficult it is when you can’t breathe, and then extend that to an infant that can’t understand what’s wrong, and you have a picture of the terror this can cause.
When exposed to SSRIs like Lexapro, a group of 1,000 infants will have approximately six to 12 who exhibit signs of mild to severe PPHN. The usual incidence of infants exhibiting this condition without such exposure is approximately one or two per 1,000. This severe increase is disturbing evidence that doctors must begin exhibiting extreme caution when prescribing Lexapro to pregnant women.