Lexapro and Breastfeeding

I wrote at length about my decision to stay on my antidepressants while pregnant. It was the right one for me, and so far, knock on wood, Emmett is nothing but alert, healthy and happy.

I did end up going off the Wellbutrin at around 7 months. It was sort of by accident, because I ran out of pills and hadn’t ordered any more. There were no side effects to the instant withdrawal and I felt fine without it. I did stay on the 10 mg of Lexapro until 3 weeks before my C-Section.

At that time, I decided to taper. The reproductive psychiatrist I had met with told me that there was a 10-30% chance of having a baby who is slightly fussy (or fussier) post birth if you keep on the meds. Still, she encouraged me to stay on them, because the fussy-factor dissipates within a few days. However, I tapered with Fia and I wanted to do the same this time around. I can live with .01% risk of staying on an antidepressant while pregnant. But 10-30% felt high to me, even though it’s a short-lived problem.

My taper wasn’t fun. I felt that dizzy/spaced out feeling pretty constantly. But I went with it because when you’re that pregnant, you feel exhausted anyway.

Emmett was born on January 25, 2012 and he has, knock on a forest, been an incredibly easy baby thus far. However, about a week after he was born, my hormones were raging, my nerves were getting frayed and my husband was pushing me to go back on the Lexapro before things went south.

I consulted a lactation consultant who informed me that Lexapro is now an L2 drug. Here is the website that explains the categories and gives a list of drugs. An L2 is a drug which, has been “studied in a limited number of breastfeeding women without an increase in adverse effects to the infant. And/or the evidence of a demonstrated risk which is likely to follow use of this medication in a breastfeeding woman is remote.”

L1 is the safest, L5 is the most risky.

I was so relieved to hear that Lexapro had been studied, that the first thing I did when I got home was take a 5 mg dose. I’ve been on that for about 2 months, and just last week went up to 10 mg. I was feeling a lot of anxiety and intensity about things. I was hoping 5 mg would be enough, but it wasn’t. I have noticed an immediate difference in my state of mind.

Wellbutrin is still an L3, which means it’s moderately safe, but no controlled studies have been done. I may go back on a small dosage of that as time goes on. We’ll see. I have some semi-obsessive issues I’m trying to deal with that seem to be getting worse. Like my obsession with cleaning. I feel like it is getting a bit out of control–which is ironic because I think “control” is what it’s all about. I will blog about that soon, as I have some ideas on how I may try and tackle this.

Anyway, I just wanted to update all of you who were interested and/or in similar situations as I was with the whole antidepressant arena. Thanks for listening.


Picture of breastfeeding via Shutterstock

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  1. by Huh?

    On April 4, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Anyone ever think about dealing and getting to the root of the depression and getting off the medication BEFORE having kids? I don`t understand even taking the risk of being emtionaly unstable and having a kid. I find the idea extremly selfish and I am slightly sick to my stomach that this article is even being published and put in such an “acceptable” and “unquestioned” manner.

  2. by Carrie

    On April 4, 2012 at 9:42 am

    How judgmental can people be??? Every single person out there has some sort of “issue”, that doesn’t mean that she’s not a wonderful, amazing mother!! The fact that you come down on a person for realizing that they aren’t perfect and working to correct the problem, is just so sad. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!!!

  3. by Huh?

    On April 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    how is caring about the future of a child being judgemental? what if her symtoms of depression get worse? what if the medication she took while pregnant and while breastfeeding has adverse negative effects on the child that are not visable right now but will make the childs future life miserable? I just think if you know you`re depressed you shouldnt add the emtional roller coaster of a new life into the mix. People need to think about the future of the child not just what they want. Thats being selfish and its an opinion not a judgment! maybe its a thin line but thats something else this women should have thought about before putting her choice for all to read. not everyone is going to agree with her choice.

  4. by Lori

    On April 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Sometimes depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. I see nothing wrong with taking medication to help yourself be able to see through the foggy times. And if it’s safe to take, which the author said she checked into, then there really shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t think the author was asking for any ones approval or consent. She’s just sharing her experience with anyone else who may be going through the same thing. And just because someone is on anti-depressants doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be a parent. I think it would be worse to not take them. The world would all be a happier place if we each took a little Lexapro in the morning.

  5. by Jill Cordes

    On April 6, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Hey gang. Jill here. The one who is being judged by “Huh?” as “emotionally unstable.” Maybe you (Huh? that is) needs to read some of my other stuff about depression in pregnancy. Lori and and Carrie, thank you for your comments. Always great to see the perceptions of people, and yes, like you said Lori I did do a ton of research. I would never make a cavalier decision on having a baby and being a parent when it comes to stuff like this.
    Huh–here is the link and there are subsequent blogs after this one about the specialists I’ve met with, etc. http://www.parents.com/blogs/of-fi-i-sing/2011/08/17/must-read/taking-antidepressants-when-pregnant/

  6. by Ambdr

    On April 11, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Are you kidding me? Just because she’s taking anti-depressants does NOT make her “emotionally unstable”. You clearly have no clue what mental disorders entail. I have suffered from severe anxiety since the birth of my first child and have been able to control it with medication, vitamins, exercise and diet. As long as you know how to deal with your disorder and recognize that it is a disease like anything else that must be treated, you can be a happy, functioning member of society. Mental disorders are not something you just “get over”. It is a lifelong struggle for most. It’s sad that it can be such a taboo subject. I am pregnant with my third child and have not taken any meds my entire pregnancy. It’s been difficult, and I am looking forward to returning to my meds after peanut is born. However, it doesnt mean I’m going crazy and neglecting my children in any way. I just have to take some days slower than others. Oh, and I have gotten to the “root of my problem”. All my doctors have continued my medication because that was the best option for me.

  7. by Laura

    On April 11, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    If women who have depression shouldn’t have children because their symptoms may become worse and they require medications while pregnant, then diabetics, asthmatics, obese women, those with MS, anyone who has every had cancer, or anyone with a bad back shouldn’t have a child because they, too, can get worse or even die during the course of their child-rearing years. That leaves a very small number of women “deserving” of motherhood and is absolutely ridiculous.

    Depression is not a disease of selfishness– it is a real medical issue for which there is effective treatment– and not always a cause. How dare you mothers judge a woman who, obviously, has her symptoms under control in normal situations. Shame on you!

  8. by Laura

    On June 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    I have been dealing with severe postpartum depression and anxiety to the point where I cannot function normally. I was prescribed Lexapro and have been very nervous about taking it. I am so glad to know that I am not alone in dealing with these issues. Thank you for sharing your experiences. To “Huh” I will say: you have no idea what you are talking about. I have never in my life had mental issues. My problems started after the birth of my child and at this point are out of my control. I do not want to take meds but I am barely able to care for my children and even with months of therapy I am not making progress. To me the meds are my last resort and I hope they will help me improve so I can have my life back.

  9. by Elizabeth

    On August 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    I just want to thank you for writing this, it has helped put my mind a little more at ease. I have talked to my pcp, psychiatrist, therapist, ob, family, and of course my husband about meds during pregnancy. I attempted to go off of them and it wasn’t so great. But after really thinking and a lotlot of prayer I decided to resume. So far at 16 weeks my baby is healthy!
    I do have to say I am so tired of judgmental people out there who obviously just lump everyone in one category. Clinical depression (as my psychiatrist puts it) is not just a little sad. I sure hope you never have to experience any type of psychiatric problems! Hopefully your fairy-tale world continues!

    People need to wake up and realize that people with depression and/or anxiety often have chemical imbalances in their brains. But this does NOT mean they will be bad parents! If anything I say bravo for. realizing you have a problem and are strong enough to do something about it!!!!

  10. by Amber

    On November 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I will be honest… I am very thankful I came across this. I have been “clinically depressed” for years. It took a lot for me to become aware of it, in fact, it took me hitting rock bottom as a parent and a Wife. I’ve still tried to “figure myself out” and keep myself in line but that is nearly impossible. I have spoken to Doctors, to therapists and tried to work through my issues in a non-medicated way because I was scared of being just another medicated crazy woman… I felt crazy for needing medication because, like Huh, I thought I was a bad person or parent for it. But now I realize that I am far worse to my family if I do not do something about my depression and obsessions. It’s heartbreaking to feel like you are hurting the ones you love for any reason. But to me, the lesser of the two evils is that I do not hurt myself or damage my relationships because I cannot simply make myself better. Thank you for this article, I appreciate your insight into this medication and I also appreciate knowing I am not alone, nor am I crazy for needing help. Thank you.

  11. by suzen

    On December 13, 2012 at 3:25 am

  12. by suzen

    On December 13, 2012 at 3:26 am

    Any antidepressant can take 2-3 weeks or even longer to become fully effective; it may take several weeks to work up to a therapeutic dose. This means that your depression may not lift for several weeks. I often tell patients that however they feel in the first two weeks is unlikely to be how they feel in a month – so if they are feeling some early side effects, hold on because they will likely get better. Patience is important in getting these medications to work, but if you have any concerns about how you are feeling, you should contact your doctor. You will most likely have a follow-up visit with your doctor within a month or less of starting the medications; this is a good time frame for checking in to see if benefits have started or if side effects have faded or persisted.

  13. by Jj

    On January 27, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Shame on you ‘huh’ . That’s all I can say. I know people who are ‘clinically depressed’ who make super amazing parents. I also know the smartest most successful and calculated people who are terrible. Kids need love and care. People with a mental illness who have already gone on medication have obviously rational and have enough self awareness to have identified a problem in the first place. It’s sad that your children will be brought up to be close minded and judgemental.

  14. by ellobie

    On February 8, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Thank you so much for this post. My midwife brought up concerns this morning (at 32 weeks!) and suggested I try tapering off or switching meds. Obviously, med-free would be ideal, but my anxiety is already off the charts, even with lexapro, weekly acupuncture and massage.

    I don’t even have a response to Huh?. What a troll.

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    Thank you for this. I trust my ob who told me it was ok to rake lexapro while ebf, but I needed to double check because I realize docs are only human too. I’d love to hear more about how you’re doing and if you have anything to add since you posted this. Blessings to you and your family!

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