Antidepressants Linked to Preterm Labor, Other Birth Complications

We have written, on a number of occasions, about the link between problems in pregnancy that are associated with <"">antidepressants. Now, Reuters Health reports that expectant mothers taking certain antidepressant or anti anxiety medications could experience increased risks for premature births and other birth complications, citing a new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The researchers looked at about 3,000 women who live in the state of Washington and found that those who began taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in the second or third trimester had a higher risk—nearly five times—of preterm birth versus women not taking those drugs, said Reuters Health. Women who began an SSRI prior to becoming pregnant or who began taking the medications during the first trimester did not experience the same risk, noted Reuters Health.
Sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and fluoxetine (Prozac) are some popular SSRIs, as are Celexa and Lexapro. SSRIs affect serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter produced in the brain on an ongoing basis and in response to pleasure-giving experiences, in a normally healthy system.

Pregnant women taking anti-anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepines experienced an increased risk of preterm delivery; the stage of pregnancy did not matter, said Reuters Health. Benzodiazepines include lorazepam (Ativan) and alprazolam (Xanax). These medications were also linked to other increased complications such as “low birth weight, newborn respiratory distress, and a low APGAR score,” said Reuters. APGAR measures newborn health.

In October we wrote that women taking SSRIs during pregnancy may be likelier to experience premature birth than other women. That study was published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and also found that babies born to women taking SSRIs were likelier to be admitted to an intensive care unit.

In November we wrote about a Science Daily article that reported that the likelihood of premature child delivery triples in pregnant women with a history of depression and who take certain psychiatric drugs. In that study, researchers from the University of Washington, University of Michigan, and Michigan State University all found that the medication-depression combination, when present before or during pregnancy, was significantly associated to childbirth earlier than at 35 weeks’ gestation.

Lead researcher Dr. Ronit Calderon-Margalit, of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health in Jerusalem, noted in an email to Reuters Health, that most women on the benzodiazepines used lorazepam (Ativan), which points to potential risks with that medication, in particular. Researchers pointed out a medication’s risks must be weighed against depression

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