Antidepressants During Pregnancy Cause Premature Birth
Women who take strategic serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants during pregnancy are twice as likely to give birth prematurely as women who do not take the drugs, according to a study published in the Archives of Pediatric &
Adolescent Medicine and funded by the Danish Medical Research Council.
Many of the most popular depressants are SSRIs, such as Prozac.
Researchers compared rates of premature birth between different women receiving prenatal care at the same hospital in Aarhus, Denmark. They compared women who were depressed and taking SSRIs with those who were depressed and not on any drugs, as well as those who did not suffer from depression.
Women who took SSRIs while pregnant were two times as likely to give premature birth as those who did not take the drugs. On average, they gave birth four to five days earlier (relative to their due dates) than women who did not take the drugs.
The researchers also found that the risk of an infant needing intensive care immediately after birth was significantly increased by SSRI use during pregnancy. While only 7 percent of babies born to non-depressed mothers needed intensive care, along with only 9 percent of those born to depressed mothers who were not taking drugs, 16 percent of babies born to women who had used SSRIs while pregnant required treatment in an intensive care unit.
Babies born to SSRI-using mothers also appeared less healthy than other babies, the researchers said, based on measures including skin color, activity level after birth, pulse, breathing and response to external stimuli.
Previous studies have confirmed that SSRIs can cross the placental barrier into the fetal bloodstream, and that infants born to women who used the drugs during pregnancy can suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
Health professionals recommend that women who are taking SSRIs and are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant speak with a doctor about their options, rather than stopping treatment abruptly. Side effects of antidepressant withdrawal can be severe.
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