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SSRIs pose risk for pregnant women and their babies

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Pregnant women taking some kinds of anti-depressants have a higher risk of delivering babies that suffer from hypertension. Around one in every 1000 babies suffer from the high blood pressure in their lung arteries. They have difficulty breathing on their own and may even suffer brain damage and organ failure. Almost 10% of these babies die as a result.

One way to prevent the disorder, is to review what if any antidepressants the expectant mother is taking while pregnant. The new study which reviewed six million births between 1996 and 2007 in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden showed that women who took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy were twice as likely to have babies born with pulmonary hypertension compared to mothers who did not take SSRIs. This class of drugs includes Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and Lexapro.

While this sounds alarming, there are few women who take the drugs while pregnant and the risk is low among these women. “You’re doubling the risk of extremely low risk to again, an extremely low risk,” said Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, division director of obstetrics.

The flip side of this argument is that women who are taking antidepressants in the first place do so for a reason and to stop means to risk relapse. Further, cessation of the medication may cause premature birth and lower full term birth weights.

There is no straight forward answer with what to do. Mothers and health care professionals need to educate themselves as to the pros and cons of SSRI use during pregnancy.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, New England Journal of Medicine

Photo by John Nyboer

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