SSRI antidepressants linked to early birth and seizure risks

A recent study suggests that when women use antidepressants during pregnancy, their children may be more likely to be born early or have seizures shortly after birth. According to the findings, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and reported by Reuters, evidence suggests a link between antidepressants and a variety of pregnancy risks. Although it is not clear whether the medications themselves cause these hazards, it appears to be safest to discontinue use of antidepressants during pregnancy if possible.

Medications tested in the study included several Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressant that includes the drugs as Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Celexa (citalopram), and Prozac (fluoxetine). Women participating in the study who took one of these antidepressants during the second trimester of pregnancy were more likely to give birth early than those who took no such medication. On average, mothers on antidepressants gave birth four to five days earlier. Furthermore, the children born to mothers who took an SSRI antidepressant during the third trimester were more likely to have a seizure shortly after birth. The risk of seizures among newborns remains quite small, however. Only about one in 500 newborns will have a seizure.

One of the study’s principal investigators, Dr. Richard C. Shelton of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, emphasized in an interview with Reuters that the risk of seizures remains small and that the study was not fully conclusive. According to Shelton, it is the first study to suggest a link between seizures and antidepressant use, and further confirmation will be necessary.

The study was conducted at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN. Researchers followed over 229,000 infants born to 228,876 participating women. Over 23,280 of the women were on an SSRI antidepressant before pregnancy, 75 percent of whom quit taking the SSRI before the second trimester, leaving a study group of 17,460 women who continued use of the drug through pregnancy to birth. Of those, almost 27 percent went into preterm labor. About 14 percent had early births, approximately double the normal percentage of preterm births after controlling for other factors such as the mother’s age and health. In addition, the risk of a newborn seizure grew the more frequently antidepressants were taken. Women who filled three SSRI prescriptions in the third trimester of pregnancy were 500% more likely to give birth to a child who had a seizure.

Dr. Shelton stressed that the study was not conclusive and that other factors might be at work in causing women to go into labor early. He speculated that the severity of their depression might play a role in the preterm births. More research into the link between SSRI antidepressant medication and preterm birth is needed, he said.

Women who are concerned about these findings should consult their doctor before they stop taking antidepressant medications. Shelton’s study joins an increasing number of findings linking drugs such as Zoloft and Paxil to complications with pregnancy and infant health. Although any decisions about antidepressant use must be made in consultation with a doctor, Shelton said that stopping antidepressant use during pregnancy is most likely “the safest bet.”

SSRI Antidepressant Birth Defect Lawsuits

If you or a loved one took a SSRI antidepressant during pregnancy and your child was born with a birth defect, you may be entitled financial compensation. To learn more about SSRI antidepressant birth defect lawsuits, contact our experienced drug lawsuit attorneys by filling out the contact from on this page or calling 800-845-6913. Time limits apply. Get a free, no-obligation legal consultation today.

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