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New Study Suggests Increased Risk of Birth Defects with Prozac, Paxil

Jul 14, 2015

A new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) adds to a body of research suggesting that the use of some antidepressants may be associated with a higher risk of birth defects. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified an increased risk of defects, including heart abnormalities, abdominal wall abnormalities and missing brain and skull defects, with Prozac and Paxil.

The study included data on over 38,000 women who gave birth between 1997 and 2009. Researchers analyzed the rate of birth defects among these children and asked whether mothers took antidepressants in the month before conception or in the first trimester. The risk of defects was 2 to 3.5 times higher with Paxil and Prozac. The study did not identify an elevated risk with Zoloft, Celexa or Lexapro.

The absolute risk of anencephaly, or malformation of the brain and skull, increased from 2 to 7 per 10,000 births in children who were exposed to Paxil early in pregnancy. The risk of a heart defect rose from 10 to 24 per 10,000 births. Reefhuis stated that "the overall risk is still small". While research points to risks, women should not stop taking their medication without first contacting their physician.

The study was led by Jennita Reefhuis, an epidemiologist. "If you're planning to get pregnant, it really is important to talk with your health care provider to see if there are options and if you could choose a safer option among antidepressants," Reefhuis said, according to NPR. "Of course, not all antidepressants work the same for everybody, so that's something that women need to consult with their health care provider about."

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