A new study, published in the January 12 issue of the British Medical Journal, adds more evidence that antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, when used during pregnancy, can increase the chances that the newborn will have a life-threatening lung defect known as persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN).
The study, conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, found that infants born to women who took SSRIs late in their pregnancy had a two-fold increase of having PPHN compared to infants born to women who did not take the drugs.
The absolute risk was three infants per 1,000 exposed to SSRIs during late gestation. And the risk with different SSRIs was similar. Those involved in the study included sertraline, known by the brand Zoloft; citalopram, known by the brands Celexa and Ciprami; paroxetine, known by the brand Paxil, and fluoxetine, known by the brand Prozac.
Currently, only Paxil is listed as a Category D drug, meaning that it is discouraged during pregnancy because studies have linked use in pregnant women to birth defects. All other SSRIs are listed as Category C drugs, and are still considered relatively safe to use during pregnancy.
However, this latest study suggests that women and their doctors should use more caution when weighing risks and benefits of SSRIs during pregnancy, especially since most SSRIs are still considered safe to use during pregnancy despite the latest study suggesting otherwise.
SSRIs are among the most prescribed drugs in the United States. In the past two decades, use of antidepressants in the U.S. has increased 400 percent. Eleven percent of Americans over the age of 12 take an antidepressant, and about 14 percent of them have been using the medication for more than a decade.