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Before I get started, I want to make it VERY well known that I’m not a doctor or mental health professional :). But I’ve been very open about my experience taking Lexapro so I wanted to write up all the common questions I’ve gotten about Lexapro with my personal answers to those questions.
My hope is that someone finds this when they’re Googling ‘is Lexapro safe while nursing’ or ‘experience with Lexapro in pregnancy’ when they’re feeling full of doubt or fear.
Finally, I’m not saying that anyone NEEDS medication. I’m saying that medication has helped me personally and that it’s improved my quality of life. It’s also worth noting that everyone’s body reacts differently to certain medications and dosages and what works for someone might not work for you. Work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for YOU!
So, let’s get to it! Your Lexapro questions, answered!
What exactly is Lexapro for?
From WebMD: “Escitalopram (aka Lexapro) is used to treat depression and anxiety. It works by helping to restore the balance of a certain natural substance (serotonin) in the brain. Escitalopram belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). It may improve your energy level and feelings of well-being and decrease nervousness.”
For me personally, Lexapro is used to treat OCD – I have “pure O”, which is the obsessive part of OCD. In this case, “obsessive” means “intrusive (disturbing) thoughts that won’t leave and play on an autoloop, causing extreme anxiety”.
How long have you been on Lexapro?
Off and on since 2010; mostly ‘on’, sometimes ‘off’ during my pregnancies. More on that below :). This time, I’ve been on it since the end of February 2020 when I delivered Auggie.
Have you tried any other meds? Zoloft?
I haven’t tried any other meds as an adult. As a teenager, I took Paxil, which I didn’t dislike but I believe it’s generally thought that Lexapro has less possible side effects.
How did you start the convo with your doctor? My concerns are being brushed off as mom stress…
I’ve honestly been on antidepressants for a LONG time (over half my life). When I was first prescribed, I was a teen who had been in talk therapy for many months before we made the jump to meds. I saw a psychiatrist at that time to be prescribed medication.
Last year, my OB retired and I started seeing a new OB. I just told him about my history and asked that he start writing my prescription. I’m sure he could see my medical history as well so it wasn’t an issue.
If your doctor isn’t hearing you, I’d try to express that what you’re experiencing is truly affecting your quality of life.
How did you know you needed it? What was the breaking point?
As an adolescent, I had an OCD episode triggered by puberty. Every mental health issue I’ve ever had has been triggered by a hormonal change. So after months of talk therapy, my parents, therapist and I decided that medication might be necessary. It was.
From about 18-24, I wasn’t on any medication. Then I had my first ever panic attack out of the clear blue sky a few months before our wedding and THEN had intrusive ‘what if’ thoughts about having another panic attack. Panicking about panic. I’d had the panic attack while driving on the highway, so my brain started trying to get me to avoid taking highways. Definitely out of control and affecting my quality of life.
So I (reluctantly) started Lexapro and haven’t looked back.
Who prescribed it?
My OB but any Primary Care doc or psychiatrist can prescribe!
How long does it take to feel a difference?
For me, about a week. It takes about 4-6 weeks to feel the full benefits. I will say it’s worth talking to your doctor about ‘weaning on’ – so if your prescription is 10mg, maybe start with 5 mg for a week, then a week of alternating 5mg with 10mg, then the following week taking 10mg daily. DEFINITELY TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT THIS!
Do you stop having worrisome scenarios run though your head?
Yep! Stops the ‘loop’ of scary thoughts and takes their power away.
Does it make you feel like you’re in a fog? Does it make you feel sleepy or groggy? I’m afraid I won’t wake in the night…
One of the side effects can be drowsiness, so I take mine at night before I go to bed. It does not make me sleep so soundly that I can’t wake up.
Other side effects? Does it affect sex drive? Does it cause weight gain?
None of the possible side effects have outweighed the benefits for me. Everyone is going to react to every medication differently!
Dose? You mentioned you went up…
After I had Auggie, I started at 10mg. Once the pandemic hit and I had all 4 kids home with me 24/7, my anxiety and irritability were increasing (a lose/lose for me and my fam) so I talked to my doctor and we agreed to increase my dose to 20mg.
Can you drink while taking it?
Talk to your doctor – I do drink alcohol while also taking Lexapro without adverse effects. Here’s an article about it.
Is it addicting? Or can you get off it easily?
It’s not addicting (like Xanax or an opiate) but you need to wean off of it gradually to avoid adverse side effects.
Will you be on it forever or will you wean off?
I’m honestly not sure. It would be nice to be free from medication at some point in the future and have my hormones regulated so that I don’t feel the need to medicate. But no plans to wean any time soon!
How do meds help when the circumstances aren’t changeable?
SSRIs help me personally to take the power out of thoughts and help me be better able to control my reaction to the things I cannot control.
Have you ever tried CBD?
I have before I was pregnant with Auggie and while I wasn’t nursing, but to be honest, I didn’t notice a difference. I was also on Lexapro while taking CBD so it’s really hard to tell what helped and what didn’t.
How to tell your kids you’re on meds/what they’re for. The kids see me pick up an Rx at CVS monthly…
It hasn’t come up with my kids yet but when it does, I’ll explain that mom’s brain needs an extra medicine to work it’s best and healthiest :).
I’ve thought about weaning off but worried about anxiety coming back…
I feel ya! You don’t know until you try and if you decide to wean off, do so with the support of your doctor :).
Husband is worried meds will change my personality. Have you noticed a change?
YES! There’s a change, and it’s only for the better. When your mind is consumed with worry and is in constant fight-or-flight, you’re not a fun person to be around. It’s hard to be kind, patient, and lively when your mind is constantly running.
Does it “flatten” emotions?
I’m in no way ‘dulled’ when I’m on Lexapro. I was telling Chris the other day that I think I cry less on Lexapro and he promptly reminded me that I’d cried like the day before so I guess that theory is blown :).
How to discuss with a spouse who doesn’t understand meds?
This is tricky because I’m also married to someone who doesn’t necessarily ‘believe’ in meds. We’ve had open discussions about it, he’s expressed his concerns (for the record, he’s concerned about long-term effects from taking antidepressants – humans haven’t been taking these meds daily for all that long in the history of humanity), and I’ve had him talk to my doctors about it.
For instance, my OB said, ‘if my wife were to be on ANY medication while pregnant, I’d be fine with this one’ – things like that have put Chris’s mind at ease.
Do you ever worry you’re kids will inherit your mental health issues?
I do; I think it’s likely that one or more of them might have a mental health issue due to the fact that it’s often hereditary. However, I feel really well-equipped to help my kids through any sort of mental health issues they may have.
Lexapro During Pregnancy
Did mental illness get worse or was it already there during pregnancy?
I weaned off Lexapro prior to all of my pregnancies (just a personal preference, I know plenty of people stay on Lex throughout their pregnancies). In my two GIRL pregnancies, I needed to get back on medication during my pregnancy. In my two BOY pregnancies, I did NOT feel the need to be medicated. I stand by the theory that my brain is extra sensitive to hormones!
Nursing + Lexapro
Any side effects for baby when you weaned them? Worried about affecting their developing brain chemistry…
None whatsoever. My pediatrician has always been fine with me taking Lexapro while nursing all 4 of my babies.
Does it affect milk supply?
In my experience, no!