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According to a new study, antidepressants like Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac can double the risk of preterm birth when taken during pregnancy, and may cause some newborns to suffer symptoms of drug withdrawal.
The study looked at 57,000 pregnancies and deliveries at Aarhus University Hospital in Skejby, Denmark. Researchers examined pregnancies where the mother was prescribed an antidepressant from a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and found that pregnant women using one of the drugs faced an increased risk of preterm birth and the babies were likely to be less healthy.
Of the 57,000 pregnancies examined, 329 involved mothers taking an SSRI and 4,902 involved women who had a history of psychiatric problems, but who did not take an antidepressant. Among the SSRIs used by women in the study were Pfizer’s Zoloft, GlaxoSmithKline’s Paxil, Eli Lilly & Co.’s Prozac and Forest Laboratories’ Lexapro and Celexa.
Results of the study, which were released Monday, indicate that women taking SSRIs may be twice as likely to have a pre-term delivery as women who had no history of psychiatric problems. The study found that the babies were more likely to require time in the neonatal intensive care unit and that some had signs of drug withdrawal, including jaundice, seizures, respiratory problems, jitters and infections.
It also found that babies delivered by mothers on antidepressants were more likely to have a seven or lower five-minute Apgar score. Apgar tests are used to measure the health of a newborn, with a score of seven or higher being signs of a healthy baby.
The new data comes on the heels of a Dutch study released last month in the British Medical Journal that indicates SSRIs antidepressant side effects can increase the risk of heart defects in newborns when taken by mothers in the first trimester. That study looked at data from half a million births, and found that the use of the antidepressants during the first trimester resulted in a fourfold increase in the risk of heart defects in newborns.
The study also comes as GlaxoSmithKline faces the first trials of about 600 pending Paxil birth defect lawsuits that claim the company hid test data and failed to adequately warn user that the popular antidepressant increases the risk of problems for a newborn when taken during pregnancy. The first two trials are currently underway in Philadelphia and Boston.