Study links prematurity, reduced head size to SSRI use during pregnancy

Most doctors advise their patients with depression not to take antidepressants during pregnancy because the drugs may cause serious birth defects. However, a new study shows that not treating depression during pregnancy may cause poor birth outcomes as well.

The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, involved about 8,000 pregnant women in the Netherlands who were asked once each trimester about their depression symptoms and whether they used antidepressants. The antidepressants studied in the research involved a class of medication known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), which includes brand names such as Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa and Lexapro. The women’s use of medication was confirmed by pharmacy records and their babies’ prenatal development was studied by ultrasound.

The study found that women who used antidepressants during pregnancy were more likely to have a baby with a reduced head size and were twice as likely to deliver a baby preterm, compared with women who suffered from depression who did not take medication. The study also found that women who did not treat their depression were more likely to have babies with both smaller body size and reduced fetal head growth.

The research adds new concerns about use of SSRIs during pregnancy. Previous studies had linked the drugs to birth defects involving the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. About 8 percent of pregnant women in the United States take antidepressants while pregnant to treat symptoms of depression.

Source: Time

Photo credit: An intubated female premature infant born prematurely 26 weeks 6 days gestation, 990 grams. Photo taken at approximately 24 hours post-delivery. |Author=ceejayoz

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