SSRI's Linked To Birth DefectsSep 25, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
SSRI's Linked To Birth Defects
More emerging research is pointing to links between antidepressant use and a greater chance for a particular heart birth defect, writes WebMD.
A Danish study of over 400,00 children born from 1996 to 2003, found that the risk increased when expectant mothers either take more than one selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or switch SSRIs in early trimesters, said WebMD. Popular SSRIs include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro, and are often prescribed to pregnant women suffering from depression, WebMD pointed out.
According to the study, when pregnant women took more than one SSRI, their babies experienced a four-fold increase in septal heart defects, a defect in the wall that divides the heart’s left and right sides, explained WebMD.
As we've reported previously, in late 2005, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), sent an alert to physicians about early studies suggesting Paxil could be a contributor to heart defects in babies when taken by expectant mothers in the first trimester. WebMD noted that not only was Paxil singled out by the agency, but also since the warning, doctors are routinely known to switch pregnant women’s medication from Paxil to a different SSRI when pregnant or discussing become pregnant. That early switching has been linked to the infant heart defect. Also, said WebMD, citing recent studies, Paxil does not increase the risk of the specific heart defect versus other antidepressants; the Danish study found that Celexa and Zoloft in early trimesters was associated with the heart defect while the risk was not seen with Paxil or Prozac.
Septal heart defects occurred in 0.5 percent of children born to women not on SSRIs, while 0.9 percent of children born to mothers taking SSRIs were diagnosed with the defect. Lars H. Pedersen of Aarhus University called for larger studies to determine the safety of any one SSRI versus any others during pregnancy.
In a joint statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the groups recommended that women who experience psychotic episodes, have bipolar disorder, are suicidal or have a history of suicide attempts should remain on antidepressants; women suffering from mild depression or who experienced few symptoms for six months or more could consider gradually reducing or stopping SSRI use under close physician supervision; and psychotherapy and other treatments might be an appropriate alternative in some, not all, pregnant women with depression, reported WebMD.