Celexa (Citalopram or Nitalapram) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that works by restoring serotonin levels in a patient’s brain. Celexa is an antidepressant drug that has been used to treat depression, mood disorders, eating disorders, alcoholism, panic disorders, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and social phobia. It can also be used to treat body dysmorphic disorder and anxiety, along with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). SSRIs can be prescribed to adolescences as well as to adults.

Celexa has been associated with increased risk of fatal heart problems when taken in high doses. In 2011, the FDA warned about taking Celexa in doses higher than 40 mg. a day. This announcement came after a study showed that patients taking 60 mg. of Celexa a day had a higher risk of heart problems than those taking lower doses or a placebo. In 2012, the Celexa label was changed to warn people who are older than 60 or have congenital long QT syndrome. The FDA recommended that people in those categories be prescribed a maximum dose of 20 mg. daily, or prescribed a different drug.

Celexa has also been linked to serious birth defects when taken by pregnant women.

A woman has approximately a 10 to 15 percent chance of experiencing depression in her lifetime. This depression often occurs during a woman’s childbearing years. A recent study found that from 1998 to 2005, 4.5 percent of women were using an antidepressant while they were pregnant. 3.8 percent of those women were using an SSRI antidepressant.

Celexa is classified by the FDA as a drug that is known to cause potential birth defects in pregnant women, but many women do not know they are pregnant until well after conception. Science has shown that most SSRI birth defects occur early in pregnancy, when women may still not know their current state. This has led to women continuing to take antidepressants while they are pregnant, causing harm to the fetus.

Serious birth defects that can be caused by the mother’s use of antidepressants are heart defects, abdominal defects, and neural tube defects. In 2006, a study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which reported that babies exposed to antidepressants in the last trimester were six times more likely to be born with PPHN than babies who were not exposed. PPHN causes the baby to be born with abnormal blood flow through their heart and lungs—their bodies can become deprived of oxygen, which can cause organ failure in the brain and kidneys. Approximately 20 percent of babies born with PPHN do not survive, and those that do live with long term breathing problems.

One study has even linked a mother’s use of SSRI antidepressants to cases of autism. A study published in Archives of General Psychiatry suggested that women who took SSRIs 12 months prior to giving birth had a high chance of having a baby with autism spectrum disorder. When the SSRI was taken in the first trimester, the risk of having a baby with autism was four times more prevalent than women who did not take an SSRI.

Celexa has also been proven to be excreted in breast milk and can cause issues in a nursing baby. Babies who have been exposed to Celexa may be excessively sleepy or lose weight. Doctors recommend that nursing women should not take Celexa.

Serious side effects include:

  • Very stiff (rigid) muscles, high fever, sweating, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, overactive reflexes
  • Severe dizziness, feeling short of breath, fainting, fast or pounding heartbeats
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, feeling unsteady, loss of coordination
  • Headache, trouble concentrating, memory problems, weakness, confusion, hallucinations, fainting, seizure, shallow breathing or breathing that stops.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • Drowsiness, tired feeling, memory problems, trouble concentrating
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Mild nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach, dry mouth
  • Increased sweating or urination
  • Cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough
  • Weight changes
  • Decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm.
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