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Is it safe to take antidepressants during pregnancy?

By on Mar 16, 2013

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Is it safe to take antidepressants during pregnancyPeople are always asking “Is it safe to take antidepressants during pregnancy” and there is a lot of confusing information, but recent research has given some clear results. Researchers have found that women who take antidepressant medications such as Prozac and Seroxat during pregnancy are at a higher risk of giving birth to children with life threatening cardiac problems. This risk has been found to double in women who take SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) antidepressants. These are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants in the UK.

The study which was conducted at Centre for Pharmacoepidemiology at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm Sweden the babies are at a higher risk of persistent pulmonary hypertention. This condition causes a rise in blood pressure in the lungs which can lead to heart failure.

Researchers reviewed 1.6 million births between 1996 and 2007 in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland.  The results found that out of the 11,014 mothers who used antidepressants in late pregnancy, 33 babies were born with persistent pulmonary hypertention.  17,053 mothers took antidepressants in early pregnancy, out of which 32 babies were diagnosed with the cardiac condition.

Dr Helle Kieler, of the Karolinska Institutet, who was the lead author of the study, said that even though the risk of developing pulmonary persistent hypertension is low, doctors should weigh the risks of not prescribing antidepressants.  She said ‘As the risk of association with treatment in late pregnancy seems to be more than doubled, we recommend caution when treating pregnant women with SSRIs.’

Researchers from the Motherisk Program Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the School of Pharmacy at the University of Oslo have echoed the results of this study. Researchers from Denmark and the US have found that the risk of heart defects increases to 60% in infants born to women taking SSRI medications.

Doctors in the UK are generally cautious about prescribing any medications during pregnancy, although some women may not be aware of being pregnant while taking prescription medications. There is a suggestion that antidepressants are over prescribed in the UK. Latest figures show that approximately 39 million prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in 2011, compared to 20 million in 1999.

There are other non-medical therapies which have been shown to be effective at treating depression. Counselling and other taking therapies are regularly recommended by GP’s. Complementary therapies such as homeopathy and EFT (emotional freedom technique) have also benefitted many cases of depression.