Is It Safe to Take Citalopram When Pregnant?

Richard Beglan

The uses of citalopram include as a treatment for depression, anxiety and panic disorder. Manufacturers of the drug advise against using citalopram when pregnant because there is a risk of it adversely affecting their unborn child. Health experts also advise caution, particularly during the last three months of pregnancy. As of 2011, there had not been any detailed studies conducted into the effects of using citalopram when pregnant. Laboratory tests during the drug's development suggested that taking citalopram when pregnant could impair development of the fetus.

Certain medications can have negative interactions with citalopram.
Certain medications can have negative interactions with citalopram.

Part of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) family of drugs, citalopram works by maintaining high brain levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a type of chemical called a chemical messenger or neurotransmitter. Low serotonin levels in the brain have been linked with depression, and SSRIs relieve depressive symptoms by keeping these levels higher. The dosage of citalopram is in 20-milligram or 40-milligram tablets. Tablets are taken orally once daily with or without food.

Citalopram works by maintaining high brain levels of serotonin.
Citalopram works by maintaining high brain levels of serotonin.

According to health experts, a baby whose mother has been taking citalopram when pregnant might have some adverse symptoms when born. These symptoms might include difficulty breathing, eating and sleeping. The baby might also have blue skin, fluctuations in body temperature and muscle tremors and might suffer from vomiting. The use of citalopram by an expectant mother might also have long-term effects on her child.

Like other antidepressants, there are several risks of citalopram use, particularly when starting and ending a course of treatment. It generally takes a couple of weeks for a patient to benefit from taking citalopram. During this initial period, it is not unusual for a patient to experience some side effects, including drowsiness and poor concentration.

If no improvement has been felt after two weeks, then the dosage might need to increased. There also is a small risk that using citalopram can worsen depression or anxiety and provoke suicidal thoughts. If this happens, it is vital for the patient to seek immediate medical assistance.

Many well-documented symptoms have been linked with citalopram withdrawal. These symptoms include dizziness, feelings of "pins and needles" and slight electric shock sensations. These feelings are exacerbated by sudden withdrawal, which is why it is important for a patient to consult with a healthcare professional before altering his or her dosages.

There are some citalopram drug interactions, particularly with other SSRI antidepressants. Patients who have previously been using monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) to treat depression need to wait up to 14 days from the final dose before starting to use citalopram. There also is a risk of interaction between citalopram and medicines that are used to treat migraines, high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat or coronary heart disease.

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