Do Anti-Depressants Increase Birth Defect Risks?

Women are often advised by doctors to continue taking their antidepressant medication during pregnancy. Although this may be beneficial to the mother, research has shown that there is a highly increased risk of birth defects to the baby. Paxil, Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, Zoloft and many other similar drugs are part of a billion dollar industry.

Since September 2005, information has been made public that certain antidepressants may cause birth defects, including cardiac defects, pulmonary, neural tube defects (brain and spinal cord), craniosynostosis (skull defect), infant omphalocele (abdominal wall defects), club foot (one or both feet turn downward and inward), and anal atresia (complete or partial closure of the anus), cleft lip and cleft palate, as well as incidents of autism spectrum disorders.

Heart Birth Defects: The FDA issued a Public Health Advisory on December 8, 2005 based on findings from a U.S. and Swedish study showing exposure to antidepressants during the first trimester of pregnancy may be associated with increased risk of heart birth defects. Most of the cardiac defects observed in these studies were atrial or ventricular septal defects, conditions in which the wall between the right and left sides of the heart is not completely developed.

PPHN: Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension in Newborns is a serious, life-threatening condition of the lungs which occurs soon after the birth of the newborn. Babies born with PPHN have high pressure in their lung blood vessels and are not able to get enough oxygen into their bloodstream. These babies require intensive care and some die a couple of days after birth.

On July 19, 2006 the FDA issued a Public Health Advisory for SSRIs, including Celexa (citalopram), Fluvoxamine, Lexapro (escitalopram), Prozac (fluoxetine), Symbyax (olanzapine and fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline) based on a study that suggests there may be additional risks of SSRI medications during pregnancy. In this study, PPHN was six times more common in babies whose mothers took SSRI antidepressant after the 20th week of pregnancy, compared to babies whose mothers did not take an antidepressant.

A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics in 2010 reported that children who experienced fetal exposure to antidepressant drugs showed significant delays in walking and sitting, as compared to children who did not have antidepressants in utero. A recent study in the Archives of General Psychiatry from 2011 reported that unborn children exposed to SSRIs during the first trimester might have an increase in the risk of autism spectrum disorder.

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