Newest Study Follows a Week of Reports Expressing Other Concerns over Expectant Mothers and the Use of Antidepressant MedicationsLast week a study published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reported that nearly a third of infants born to women taking anti-depressants suggesting that expectant mothers may want to consider limiting the use of these powerful drugs during pregnancy.Thirty percent of the 60 newborns exposed to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in the womb were found to have withdrawal symptoms. 13% of the infantsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ symptoms were classified as severe said the study by Dr. Rachel Levinson-Castiel of the Children’s Medical Center of Israel, in Petah Tiqwa. (Reuters)
Newborns exhibited symptoms such as high-pitched crying, tremors, gastrointestinal problems and disturbed sleep occurred in infants in the first 48 hours after birth. As the anti-depressant dosage taken by the mother increased, these symptoms became more pronounced.
After examining the 37 infants exposed in the womb to paroxetine hydrochloride, sold as Paxil by GlaxoSmithKline, researchers found the risk was highest among newborns exposed to 27 mg per day or more. Below 20 mg per day the risk of symptoms disappeared.
According to that study, symptoms usually did not peak until after the first day of life. The long-term effects, however, are not known. Two of infants who were exposed to the drugs suffered short seizures.
Previous studies into the effects of SSRIs on newborns have found other symptoms such as bluish skin color from lack of oxygen, rapid breathing, feeding difficulties, low blood sugar, and jitteriness.
Just prior to that study being released, another report stated that women who are clinically depressed and are prescribed anti-depressants cannot simply count on hormonal changes in pregnancy to relieve their symptoms. Some women, therefore, face a severe catch-22 regarding whether or not to continue taking their medication.
“Because maternal depression during pregnancy also entails a risk to the newborn, the risk-benefit ratio of continuing SSRI treatment should be assessed,” Levinson-Castiel wrote in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Unfortunately, “the long-term effects of in utero exposure to SSRIs have not been demonstrated clearly,” not even for those whose symptoms were severe early on, she wrote. (Reuters)
Both studies recommended that if pregnant women must continue to medicate themselves, that they decrease their drug regimen to a one drug, at the very lowest effective dose.
Now, a more serious complication has been thrown into the equation as a result of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found infants of women who had taken an SSRI antidepressant after 20 weeks of pregnancy had a 600% greater risk of having PPHN. (PPHN, or persistent pulmonary hypertension, is a serious lung disorder.)
The researchers led by Christina D. Chambers, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of California, recruited 377 women whose babies had persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) and compared them with 836 matched controls.
The team found that at the end of the 20th week of pregnancy, 14 infants with PPHN had been exposed to an SSRI antidepressant as compared with only 6 control infants.
The study noted that the timing and type of medication taken were important since neither the use of a non-SSRI antidepressant (at any time during pregnancy) nor the use of an SSRI before the 20th week of pregnancy showed any association with and increased risk of PPHN.