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Depression Drugs 'Can Raise Birth Defect Risk'

Sep 1, 2005 |

Babies born to women taking common anti-depressants during pregnancy are substantially more likely to suffer birth defects and to be born prematurely, according to research.

A study of more than 1,000 expectant mothers found use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including Prozac and Seroxat, during the first three months of pregnancy was associated with a 40 per cent increase in the risk of congenital defects.

Danish researchers said the study suggested use of the drugs by pregnant women led to a 60 per cent greater chance of heart defects in their babies and a 40 per cent greater likelihood of a premature birth.

Prescriptions for SSRIs jumped from seven million in 1997 to 19 million in 2003. They are thought to be used by 3.5 million people in England.

The study's results were presented at last week's International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology conference in Nashville, and will be published today in Pulse, the weekly newspaper for GPs.

The researchers stressed their results were only initial findings and that there was a possibility they could be linked to the depression of the mother rather than the drugs.

Dr Pia Wogelius, the study's lead author, of Aalborg Hospital in Denmark, said: "We found an association between maternal use of SSRIs and an increased risk of both congenital malformations overall and congenital cardiac malformations.

"Moreover, maternal use of SSRIs any time during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of preterm birth. It is unclear whether the effects were causal or due to other factors related to the underlying disease."

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