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Antidepressants During Pregnancy Double Pre-Term Birth Risk: Study

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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.

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7 comments

  1. Jen Reply

    I am extremely upset at hearing that this news has been kept from the public eye. I just recently stopped taking Prozac , 5 days ago to be precise and I am 11 weeks pregnant. My mother having worked with medicine for 30+ years was concerned so I went off them on my own accord and have yet to even tell my doctor.

    It is the right of the public to know these health risks as it can greatly affect the health of our babies, and for it to be held from us is a DISGRACE!!!

  2. Melanie Reply

    With my first child, I was severely depressed and did not take any anti-depressants because I was advised not to by several doctors. That child was diagnosed with severe Autism at the age of 18 months and I feel like my depression contributed to his devastating diagnosis.

    I took Wellbutrin and Effexor with my 2nd child and went into preterm labor at 31 weeks. They were able to successfully stop the labor and I was put on bed rest. I delivered a healthy, 7 lb. baby just a few days shy of 37 weeks and left the hospital 24 hours later. My son is thriving and is nearly 3 years old with no Autism or developmental delays.

    If it weren’t for my antidepressants during my 2nd pregnancy, I would not have been able to cope and would not have been a good mother to my child with Autism (he was just 20 months old when his little brother was born so it was very new and very emotional for my husband and I). I feel like in my situation, I absolutely had to take the medication no matter what.

    My hope is that caregivers speak candidly and compassionately with women who make the choices that I did.

  3. Sara Reply

    I took Prozac as advised by my doctor because of a hisrtory of sever PPD. This was my third baby and I knew how depressed I could get. Unfortunately I didn’t know about the effects Prozac could have on my baby or I would’ve tried a more natural approach to my PPD. When my baby was born he had a low APGAR score and I only held him a second befor he was taken from me. He ended up getting taken by ambulance (they wanted to fly him but the weather was to bad) to the closest NICU. I left AMA a few hours later to be with him. This began a week and a half of hell. My baby was jaundiced, had a high fever, was having seizures, and had so much trouble breathing he had to be intubated and on a breathing machine for a day or so. Every test had to be done and they found an infection all thugh they never knew what it was because it wouldn’t grow in a petri dish. For a week he was poked and many IV”s were going into him giving him IV antibiotics. He had every symptom listed above dealing with withdrawels. We live 2 hours from the NICU so I spent every night and day sleeping on the visitors couch so I could be there with him. My husband was dealing with my two other children shutteling them back an forth to school while he himself was in school for his last semester before getting his BS in micrbiology. My baby started showing problems with gross motorskills at about 9 month and had to have physical therapy for a year to catch up. He’s now a health, thriving, normal 2 year old. If I had known what dangers Prozac posed to newborns I never would’ve taken it and found another way to deal with my PPD. This in it’s self can be dangerous but with counceling and medication right after the birth I could’ve made it and saved my baby and the rest of my family the worry, pain, expense, and every other thing we had to go through.

  4. sherry Reply

    My OBGYN told me that it was Ok to take prozac while i was pregnant. I was really concerned about this but he said it does not cause birth defects. While when my baby was born i found out that he had lied to me. My baby was born with an esphageal atresa tracheal esphageal fistula, meaning his esphagus never finished forming together and he could not swallow not even his saliva. he had to have emergency major surgery cut his back open with a thorocotomy and two chest tube holes are still in his back today. he had to have the surgery all over again at a month old and i almost lost him. he went into a conflusion after the surgery and was stiff and blue . my son is now 12 and was diagnosied with autism at age 2. i blame myself everyday that this was my fault that i should not have listened to the doctor. i would love to find an atty that would handle this case because i will take this guilt to my grave unless i can find justice.

  5. Lisa Reply

    Melanie thank you for your story it almost makes me laugh that you blame not taking antidepressants and your depression for your child having autism because mine is the opposite story.
    I didn’t take them with number one who is 100% healthy and normal.
    I did take them with number 2 and while he was a healthy baby with a high Apgar scale he now has moderate autism and I have been beating myself up thinking I was a stupid moron for taking antidepressants when I was pregant with him and that they caused his autism. So thank you for your story. Depression in a mother definitely does not cause autism. I know from books I’ve read about autism that it is definitely not believed that a mother’s behaviour can cause autism.

  6. lora Reply

    I was taking Prozac, Abilify, Seroquel. I was pregnant and did not know it. When I found out later that I was pregnant, I stopped taking the medication immediately . I ended up losing my baby by a miscarriage . I am trying to seek an attorney that maybe able to help me with this. I dont know if this had something to do with the medications I was on. Has this happened to anyone else?

  7. shannon Reply

    My oldest daughter has astma, autism, adhd. I took celexa during both of my pregnancies. My youngest daughter has asthma, adhd, and had a seizure when she was 2 years old which caused her to stop breathing. Also when my youngest daughter was born the nurses had to bag her twice and give her oxygen to keep her breathing. I wonder if it was because of the atidepressant celexa.

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