Research conducted in Denmark has examined the troubling association between selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants and congenital malformations in infants. An ever-increasing body of evidence seems to suggest a link between maternal SSRI use in early pregnancy and cardiac malformations. Antidepressants belonging to the controversial SSRI class include Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro.
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What’s the problem?
Set in Northern Denmark, a population-based study conducted by researchers at the University of Aarhus included 216,042 women who gave birth after the 20th week of gestation. The study aimed to compare the prevalence of malformation in infants born to mothers who took SSRIs during early pregnancy to women who took no such medications during their pregnancies. Drug use data were gathered from prescription databases, while data on birth defects were extracted from the National Registry of Patients.
Of the 2,062 women who took SSRI antidepressants during the first trimester of pregnancy, 105 (5.1%) infants were born with malformations, while the 213,712 women who took no antidepressants during pregnancy gave birth to 7,449 (3.5%) infants with congenital birth defects. Taking these numbers into consideration, SSRI use was associated with an increased risk of birth defects of (odds ratio [OR] = 1.3; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.1–1.6) and cardiac malformations (OR = 1.7; 95% CI: 1.1–2.5). The study also found an increased risk for septal defects specifically with Zoloft.
In conclusion, the study’s authors indicated that while a strong link between SSRIs and birth defects was not found, an association between antidepressant use in the first trimester of pregnancy and congenital malformations was likely: “We found little overall association between use of SSRIs during pregnancy and congenital malformations, but our findings suggest an association between maternal SSRI use in early pregnancy and cardiac malformations which could be causal.”
SSRIs are among the most frequently prescribed antidepressant drugs used to treat pregnant women. Between 2% and 13% of all pregnant women are treated with antidepressants, and the use of SSRIs has nearly quadrupled in Western populations over the last 10 years. Medications belonging to the SSRI class include:
SSRIs have been found to readily cross the placenta from mother to child, leading to an increased risk for a variety of birth defects. Since specific SSRIs do not share identical chemical structures, they can have a wide range of teratologic effects. Paxil, for example, has been associated with a 1.7-fold increased risk of cardiac malformations in a recent meta-analysis. However, very few studies have assessed similar risks in other SSRIs, and those that have show inconsistent results.
SSRI Antidepressant Birth Defects
Use of SSRIs during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of serious and potentially life-threatening health problems for babies including:
Do You have an Antidepressant Birth Defect Lawsuit?
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