Study Links Depression Medications to Birth Defects

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A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center has confirmed a link between two popular antidepressant drugs — Paxil and Prozac (fluoxetine) — and major birth defects.

What’s the problem?

Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the study found an increased risk for anencephaly, several heart defects and 2 gastrointestinal malformations in women who took Paxil during pregnancy. Prozac was linked to a heart defect and craniosynostosis, in which a baby’s skull fails to fuse properly in the womb.

Both Paxil ad Prozac are classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work by boosting the body’s ability to utilize serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood and emotion. Numerous previous studies have attempted to investigate the association between SSRIs and birth defects, with mixed results.

The new CDC study also reached mixed conclusions. While 2 drugs were found to increase the risk for birth defects, 3 other SSRIs seemed to present no risk. The researchers found no link between citalopram, escitalopram or sertraline and congenital malformations.

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