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Mums-to-be warned of birth defect antidepressants link

By Jennifer Cockerell

Published 09/07/2015

Taking certain antidepressants while pregnant has been associated with an increased risk of birth defects
Taking certain antidepressants while pregnant has been associated with an increased risk of birth defects

Taking certain antidepressants while pregnant has been associated with an increased risk of birth defects.

Researchers in the United States focused on the commonly used selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, which they said are increasingly being used by women of reproductive age and during pregnancy.

They analysed women who took citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine or sertraline at least once between the month leading up to conception and the third month of pregnancy.

The team said that while they found "reassuring evidence" for some SSRIs, some birth defects were up to three-and-a-half times more likely to occur in babies whose mothers took paroxetine or fluoxetine.

The research analysed 18,000 mothers of infants with birth defects and 10,000 mothers of infants without defects, born between 1997 and 2009.

Dr Michael Bloomfield, a clinical lecturer in psychiatry at University College London, said that doctors in the UK generally prescribe lower doses of psychiatric medicines to patients than in the US and warned that no one should stop taking treatment without talking to their doctor first.

He added: "It has been known that for some time that there is a small increase in the risk of birth defects when women take these medicines in pregnancy.

"Any woman who is either pregnant or planning to become pregnant and needs to take a serotonin reuptake inhibitor should discuss her treatment with her GP or psychiatrist."

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