Study links antidepressant use during pregnancy to serious birth defect

preemie baby 435x293 Study links antidepressant use during pregnancy to serious birth defectPregnant women who take antidepressants had a small but statistically significant increased risk of their babies being born with a life threatening lung defect called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, or PPHN, according to a new population-based study.

PPHN is a condition in which a newborn baby’s circulation changes back to the circulation of a fetus, where much of the blood flow bypasses the lungs. When blood is shunted away from the baby’s lungs, it is difficult for the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, resulting in low blood oxygen levels. This can be serious and cause organ damage since all the body’s organs are dependent on oxygen-rich blood.

From the study, researches found that 31.5 per 10,000 infants who were exposed to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and 29.1 per 10,000 infants exposed to non-SSRI antidepressants during the last trimester of pregnancy were diagnosed with PPHN compared with 20.8 per 10,000 infants diagnosed with PPHN who were not exposed to antidepressants.

SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants in the country. SSRIs include the brand names Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa and Prozac. Previous studies have linked SSRIs to PPHN and other birth defects including heart defects, neural tube disorders, and malformations.

Researcher Krista F. Huybrechts, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said she conducted the study investigating the link between maternal antidepressant use and PPHN because prior research had offered conflicting results and that smaller studies may not have had the strength to detect the increased risk of PPHN in babies exposed to SSRIs and other antidepressants.

The retrospective cohort study involved data from more than 3 million pregnant women from 2000 to 2010. Among these women, 3.4 percent had used antidepressants during the last trimester of pregnancy – 2.7 percent were taking SSRIs and 0.7 percent were using a non-SSRI antidepressant. These women were compared to the remaining 96.6 of women who did not take antidepressants during pregnancy.

The study’s conclusion states, “clinicians and patients need to balance the potential small increase in the risk of PPHN, along with other risks that have been attributed to SSRI use during pregnancy, with the benefits attributable to these drugs in improving maternal health and well-being.”

Source: MedPage Today