Could SSRIs be contributing to an increase in birth defects?

More babies are born with birth defects in England and Wales than previously thought, according to a recent study from Queen Mary, University of London. At least 14,500 babies were born in 2009 with defects such as congenital heart disease, spina bifida and gastroschisis. That represents more than 2 percent of births, up from previous estimates of 1.3 percent. The data comes from five regional birth defect registries as well as two additional registries specific to particular conditions.

The registries cover only about 28 percent of the overall population, and data from other areas beyond England and Wales is missing, so the accuracy of the results is still in question. What it does raise is questions about why the birth defect rate would increase.

Many factors can affect birth outcomes, several of which are considered preventable including lifestyle changes during pregnancy (such as smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse) and getting regular prenatal care. What some women don’t realize is that the prescription medication they are taking while pregnant could have detrimental affects on developing fetuses.

For example, one of the most prescribed drugs in both the United States and the United Kingdom is a type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Drugs in this class include Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro and Prozac.

Most of these drugs are labeled as safe to take during pregnancy; however, newer studies are providing more evidence that using them during pregnancy could increase the risk for heart defects, neural tube defects (including spina bifida) and other defects, including gastroschisis.

Source: The Independent