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A popular class of antidepressants, which include widely used medications like includes Zoloft, Paxil and Celexa, appear to increase the risk of a child being born with language disorders when used by pregnant women, according to the findings of a new study.
Researchers from New York and Finland found that expecting mothers who used selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be nearly 40% more likely to give birth to a child who is later diagnosed with dyslexia and other language disorders. The findings were published this month in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry.
SSRI antidepressants are some of the most widely recognized drugs in the United States, and are prescribed to up to 10.2% of pregnant women. However, the side effects of SSRIs have previously been linked to an increased risk of birth defects, miscarriage, autism, and other problems when used during pregnancy.
In this latest study, researchers looked at data from Finland’s national population-based register data from 1996 to 2010. The study involved 845,345 pregnant women and their children.
According to the findings, mothers who used SSRIs during pregnancy had a 37% increased risk of having children with speech or language disorders, compared to those who did not use SSRIs during pregnancy.
“Exposure to SSRIs during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of speech/language disorders,” researchers concluded. “This finding may have implications for understanding associations between SSRIs and child development.”
Antidepressant Pregnancy Concerns
This research is the latest in a series of studies that highlight potential concerns surrounding side effects of antidepressants in pregnancy.
In a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics in April, researchers from Johns Hopkins also found a link between the use of SSRIs during pregnancy and autism in boys. That study found the risk effectively tripled. However, research into the association has turned up inconsistent results.
In November 2013, a study published in the medical journal Clinical Epidemiology raised questions on whether there was an actual association between autism and SSRIs. The Danish researchers who conducted that study found no such link after looking at data on more than 600,000 children.
However, the Danish findings contradicted a study published in April in the British Medical Journal, which indicated that there is a link between parental depression, antidepressant use and the risk of autism. That study, which looked at 4,429 cases of autism and more than 40,000 controls, finding that women who took any antidepressant while pregnant were about twice as likely to give birth to a child that would later test on the autism spectrum.
In July 2011, researchers from Kaiser Permanente reported that the use of SSRI antidepressants while pregnant was linked to twice the risk of giving birth to an autistic child.
In addition to autism, 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 risks have also been linked to a serious respiratory disorder, known as persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN), which may cause insufficient blood flow to the lungs, leading to serious and potentially life-threatening problems.
In recent years, a growing number of Zoloft lawsuits and Paxil lawsuits have been filed in courts throughout the United States on behalf of children born with defects and malformations after exposure to the medication during pregnancy. The complaints allege that the manufacturers of the medications 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.