New study links PPHN to SSRI antidepressant use in pregnancy

Canadian scientists recently published an article showing a link between antidepressants and Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN). As early as 2006, the FDA had warned of a potential link between SSRIs and an increased risk of PPHN. In 2011, the FDA indicated that further research was needed and all labels were to be updated. PPHN causes the blood to bypass the lungs in newborns. This essentially gives the baby low oxygen levels. These low levels can lead to brain hemorrhages, seizures, chronic lung disease, organ failure, kidney damage and developmental delays. In severe cases, PPHN can result in death.

Data from the British Medical Journal article were compiled from seven different high quality studies gleaned from voluminous sources: 3077 abstracts and 738 articles. The studies revealed a link between Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants and PPHN, depending on when the drug was taken during the pregnancy. The link was not evident for ingestion of SSRIs during early pregnancy. There was a finding of increased risk later in pregnancy. Although the original studies did not define early/late pregnancy, the current analysts did so: 20 weeks for early, post 20 weeks for late.

The scientists conclude that a pregnant woman should be counseled on the risks of exposing her fetus to SSRI antidepressants.

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