Many concerns have been raised about the serious effects some antidepressants can have on developing fetuses when taken by their mothers during pregnancy. A new study suggests that the drugs may cause problems for babies if taken by women before they became pregnant, even if they do not use the drugs once they conceive.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants in the country. These include brand names such as Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa and Prozac.
Mounting studies show that babies born to women who take SSRIs while pregnant are at greater risk of serious birth defects, including malformations, heart and lung defects, and neural tube defects. Studies have also suggested that babies exposure to SSRIs in utero were more likely to experience developmental delays and exhibit behavior problems than babies who were not exposed to the drugs as fetuses.
Furthermore, a 2011 study and a 2013 meta-analysis found that fetuses exposed to SSRIs were nearly twice as likely to have autism than babies who were not exposed to the antidepressants.
The latest study, conducted by researchers with the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark, focused on the autism risk in babies born to mothers who used SSRIs. The analysis involved more than 600,000 births from 1996 to 2005, which were followed through 2009.
Researchers said they could not detect a significant association between maternal use of SSRIs during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorder in their babies. However, they did find a significantly increased risk of autism in babies born to women who used SSRIs before pregnancy but not during pregnancy.
Medical experts not involved in the study say the study raises many questions. “Genetic factors carry the most significant risks for autism,” Diane Treadwell-Deering, MD, of Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston told MedPage Today. “However, the identification of environmental factors, especially those that are preventable, is of vital importance.”
Source: MedPage Today