Pregnancy Antidepressants Use Linked to Preterm Birth Risk: Study

The use of antidepressants during pregnancy may increase the risk of preterm birth, which can negatively impact the health of the newborn, according to the findings of a new study.  

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and a number of other medical facilities and universities found that women who took antidepressants during the second and third trimesters were more likely to go into labor and give birth before fully coming to term than women who did not take antidepressants, according to findings were published last week in the medical journal PLosOne.

The study examined data from several medical databases and a number of previous studies. Researchers found 41 papers on the subject, and determined that pregnancy antidepressant users faced a higher risk of preterm birth, particularly when the medications are used in the third trimester.

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At issue is an increasing rate of preterm births in the U.S. over the past 20 years. Such children suffer from higher infant mortality rates, and face a stronger chance of having significant health problems than peers born at full term. Preterm birth injuries are estimated to cost the U.S. health care system about $26.2 billion annually.

Researchers did say that there was a possibility of residual confounding factors that were not ruled of the study.

The study did not specify any particular class of antidepressants and did not mention any of them by name, but popular SSRI antidepressants, such as Zoloft, Paxil and Effexor, have previously been linked to serious pregnancy risks for unborn children..

Antidepressant Pregnancy Risks

Many popular antidepressants have been linked to a risk of serious health problems for children exposed to the medication before birth, including septal heart defects, skull malformations, neural tube defects, abdominal defects, spina bifida and other serious injuries.

Recent studies have also found that antidepressant use in pregnancy may increase the risk of seizure problems and delay of infant development milestones, such as sitting and walking are affected by antidepressant use during pregnancy.

Pregnancy antidepressant use has also been linked to an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN), which is a serious respiratory disorder that may cause insufficient blood flow to the lungs, leading to serious and potentially life-threatening problems.

In recent years, a number of families throughout the United States have pursued Zoloft lawsuits, Effexor lawsuits and Paxil lawsuits on behalf of children born with defects and malformations after exposure to the SSRIs during pregnancy. The complaints allege that the drug manufacturers failed to adequately research the risks associated with use of the antidepressant in pregnancy, or provide proper warnings to women about the risk of becoming pregnant while using the medication.

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