Antidepressants and Risk of Preterm Birth

A recent study revealed that antidepressant medications, mainly SSRIs (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro and Celexa), taken by pregnant women were associated with increased rates of premature births. One of the lead authors of the study revealed that these findings are significant since preterm births can lead to health problems such as developmental delays and cerebral palsy. Additionally, premature births are the leading cause of infant death in the United States. It is estimated that 75% of all perinatal deaths occur among preterm infants.

Initially, it was believed that the depression itself could be the cause of preterm births. However, this study rejects that theory and analyzed variables including depression itself, health history ageand socioeconomic status. No association between depression and premature birth.

Antidepressant use during pregnancy has risen with rates at 7.4% in the United States. The National Center for Health Statistics found that 1 in every 10 Americans takes an antidepressant. The widespread use of these drugs during pregnancy has come under fire given the significant side-effects.

In 2006, a New England Journal of Medicine article found that there was a correlation between birth defects and SSRI medications. Some of these birth defects included heart, intestinal, lip, palate and skull defects. That same year, the FDA issued a warning for all SSRIs regarding persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN). PPHN is a devastating condition that can leave a child with significant respiratory difficulties and can lead to death.

Even more disturbing is that one SSRI, Paxil, received a label change in December 2005 stating that new studies showed that Paxil increases the risk of birth defects when taken during the first three months of pregnancy. Paxil currently carries a pregnancy category D warning which means that there is evidence of human fetal risk when taking the drug during pregnancy. The remaining SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro and Celexa) remain a pregnancy category C. Pregnancy Category C indicates that there is animal study evidence of a potential fetal risk when taking the drug.

Despite the fact that SSRIs remain a pregnancy category C, these recent studiesshowing that these drugs cause premature births along with the risk of birth defects, makes these drugs dangerous for use during pregnancy.

Please visit our antidepressant and birth defect page for more information. If your child was injured as a result of taking an antidepressant during pregnancy, please contact us.

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