Antidepressant Pregnancy Risks Include High Blood Pressure: Study

The use of a popular class of antidepressants, which includes Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft, could put pregnant women at risk of high blood pressure, according to the findings of a recent study. 

Canadian researchers indicate that the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase a women’s risk of hypertension beyond what could be attributed to the depression and anxiety that likely drove them to take antidepressants in the first place.

Out of the entire class of drugs, the one that appeared the most linked to increased high blood pressure risk was Paxil.

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In a study published this week in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers looked at the Quebec Pregnancy Registry and identified more than 1,200 women who were diagnosed with pregnancy-induced hypertension who did not have high blood pressure before they got pregnant.

Overall, just under 4% of women use antidepressants during pregnancy. Researchers found that those who used any form of antidepressant during pregnancy were at a 50% increased risk of high blood pressure, while those who specifically took SSRIs had a 60% increased risk. Women who took the drug Paxil during pregnancy faced a more than 80% increased risk of hypertension.

All of the analyses compared women taking the drugs to women who did not and tried to adjust for other factors that could raise blood pressure, such as high blood pressure caused by anxiety and depression itself.

SSRI antidepressants are some of the most widely used drugs in the United States, and include Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro and Zoloft.

Several studies have highlighted pregnancy side effects of SSRI antidepressants, but most focus on the risk of birth defects and malformations for babies exposed to the medication before they are born.

An estimated 800 Paxil birth defect lawsuits have been filed against GlaxoSmithKline over their failure to warn consumers and doctors that use of the antidepressant during pregnancy could lead to Persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN) and congenital heart defects in newborns. The lawsuits also claim that the company hid test results and purposefully misled doctors about the risks associated with Paxil, which is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States.

More recently, a growing number of women have filed a Zoloft lawsuit over Pfizer’s failure to warn about the risk of birth defects when that SSRI antidepressant is used during pregnancy. Potential side effects of Zoloft for unborn children have been reported to occur when the drug is taken as early as the first trimester, a time when many women do not even realize they are pregnant.

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