While most pregnant women take medication at some point during pregnancy, it is difficult for them to find clear information about which drugs pose a risk to their unborn babies, such as antidepressants.
Many drug labels provide few, if any, details about use during pregnancy, the Associated Press (AP) reports. And because drug makers shy from studying pregnant women, it can take years for safety information to accumulate.
Antidepressants, which are used by about 5 percent of pregnant women, are a particular concern. Certain brands are suspected of an increased risk of heart defects. Dr. Christina Chambers of the University of California, San Diego, who helps direct California’s pregnancy risk information hotline says that that SSRIs —selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, and Zoloft—may increase risks of a serious lung problem at birth. In the first days of life some babies go through withdrawal symptoms ranging from jitteriness to occasional seizures.
We have previously written that taking SSRIs during pregnancy increases the risk for miscarriage, pre-term births, neonatal health problems, and long-term neurobehavioral abnormalities, such as autism. A growing body of research has also linked SSRIs to birth defects and other issues, especially when used in the early months of pregnancy when many women don’t realize they are pregnant.
While women often turn to the Internet with pregnancy questions, researchers who examined 25 pregnancy-related websites found no two lists of purportedly safe drugs were identical, the AP reports. Cheryl Broussard of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who led the study, said that specialists couldn’t find evidence to back up safety claims for 40 percent of the drugs listed.
The CDC is beginning Treating for Two, a program to explore how to get better information to pregnant women, the AP writes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to revamp prescription drug labels with more details on what is known now. Dr. Sandra Kweder of the FDA said adding details would help informed decision-making: How certain are those studies? What’s the risk of skipping treatment? Is the risk only during a certain trimester?