Yet another study has found that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants may be dangerous for babies whose mothers used the drugs during pregnancy. According to the study, which was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, babies exposed to SSRI antidepressants in utero are more likely to be born early, or suffer seizures shortly after birth.
SRI antidepressants include drugs sold under the names Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, and Zoloft. SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain to boost mood. A growing body of research has linked these medications to birth defects and other issues when they are used by pregnant women, especially in the early months of pregnancy when many women don’t realize they are pregnant. For example, a study published in January by researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute found that taking an SSRI antidepressant during pregnancy was associated with a two-fold increased risk of neonatal pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) in. Another report published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in March found that babies exposed to SSRI antidepressants before birth exhibit reduced head growth at birth, and are more likely to be born prematurely.
According to a report from Reuters, this latest study looked at nearly 229,000 mothers in Tennessee who gave birth between 1995 and 2007. Of those, just fewer than 23,280 took an SSRI antidepressant prior to pregnancy. About a quarter continued to use the drugs after they became pregnant.
According to the study:
- For each prescription a woman filled during the second trimester, her odds of going into labor early doubled, even when accounting for other factors, like smoking.
- Almost 27 percent of women in the study group went into early labor.
- The rate of preterm delivery was just under 14 percent.
- Mothers who filled three SSRI prescriptions in the last trimester were five times more likely to have a newborn who suffered a seizure, versus women not on the drugs.
Dr. Richard C. Shelton, one of the authors of the study, told Reuters that this is the first time research has pointed to a potential newborn seizure risk with SSRIs. However, he cautioned that the findings need to be confirmed by other studies before a definitive causal link can be established.
According to Shelton, the best course of action for women on antidepressants is to plan their pregnancies and seek advice from their doctors about whether and when to stop the medication. They should also let their doctors know that if they see depression symptoms re-emerging during pregnancy, he said.