Antidepressants during pregnancy present remote risk of birth defects

According to the latest research the newer antidepressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) only slightly increase the risk of birth defects in pregnancy.

Two new studies have concluded that though there is an increased risk it is remains a very remote one.

The researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say SSRIs, may possibly cause a very small increase in the number of heart defects, a defect of the brain, a type of abnormal skull development and a gastrointestinal abnormality.

According to the March of Dimes around 10 percent of pregnant women suffer from depression, and as the CDC says every pregnancy has a 3 percent risk of a major birth defect, regardless of exposures.

Concern over the use of SSRIs in pregnancy was triggered two years ago when a survey of 527 fetuses whose mothers took the antidepressant Paxil during their first three months of pregnancy, found that 4.4 percent were born with major malformations, usually of the heart.

The rate among women taking other antidepressants was around 2.2 percent and the finding prompted a change in labeling and new studies to be initiated.

Late last year a committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that such drugs be discontinued if possible when a patient becomes pregnant.

Prozac (Lilly) Lexapro (Forest Labs) and Zoloft (Pfizer) are all SSRIs.

These latest studies suggest that such concerns may be exaggerated and encouraging a mother suffering from depression during pregnancy to discontinue her medicine can be dangerous to both herself and the child.

One study was led by Carol Louik of Boston University, which looked at the cases of 15,709 babies.

The second study was led by Sura Alwan of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver assessed data from 13,714 births.

The findings are published in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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