Pregnant women taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants like Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft face double the risk of having a baby born with a life-threatening lung condition.
According to a WebMD.com report on a new study from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, these popular antidepressant drugs taken by millions worldwide cause a two-fold increased risk of neonatal pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) in newborns if they are taken by the baby’s mother during her pregnancy. Researchers from Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark used data collected through birth registries in those countries to form their opinion.
PPHN is a life-threatening condition for a newborn and is caused when arteries leading to the lungs constrict upon birth, blocking blood flow and air to the vital organs. Up to 10 percent of newborns with PPHN do not survive treatment. WebMD.com reports a 2006 study revealed a six-fold increased risk of PPHN in newborns exposed in utero to SSRI antidepressants during the later stages of a pregnancy.
For this latest study, researchers examined birth records from 1996 through 2007. It is considered the largest study looking for a link between use of SSRI drugs and PPHN. Of the women used in the study, 30,000 pregnant women were prescribed SSRI drugs during their pregnancy. Just more than one-third of those women had prescriptions for the drug filled during their final trimester of pregnancy. Of those women, about 3 in every 1,000 babies born under those conditions had PPHN at birth.
This rate, researchers noted, is double what could be expected for PPHN diagnoses among women not taking SSRI drugs. Another expert who examined the findings of this latest study noted how the rate of PPHN among women taking SSRI drugs is high but pregnant women with a history of severe psychiatric disorder not taking the drugs has a higher rate of the pulmonary condition.
This study is raising “more questions than answers,” according to the report, mainly on whether women with general cases of depression should be treated with SSRI drugs during pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration has recently weighed-in on the issue of SSRI drugs cauing PPHN but still believes no concrete evidence exists showing a link.
Several recent studies have compounded the dangers of SSRI antidepressants, suggesting they may be responsible for the uptick in autism diagnoses among children. Previous studies have also linked use of SSRI antidepressants to an increased risk of other birth defects, including skeletal, heart and limb deformities, cleft lip and cleft palate.