Some SSRIs May Raise Birth Defects Risk When Taken Early in Pregnancy: Study

By Branswell, Helen | The Canadian Press, July 8, 2015 | Go to article overview

Some SSRIs May Raise Birth Defects Risk When Taken Early in Pregnancy: Study


Branswell, Helen, The Canadian Press


Some SSRIs may raise birth defects risk - a bit

--

TORONTO - A large new study by U.S. and Canadian researchers suggests the use of some anti-depressant drugs early in pregnancy may be linked to an increased risk of birth defects in the child.

But the researchers say the overall risk is low and needs to be weighed against the woman's mental health needs.

A number of studies have looked at whether it is safe for women to take selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, during pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester.

But the trials have been inconclusive, creating confusion.

This new study, published Thursday in the British journal BMJ, suggests specific SSRIs seemed to be associated with an increased risk of some birth defects.

But like other studies on the question, it was not designed in a way that would allow the researchers to say the drugs cause the birth defects, only that they may be associated with an increased number of birth defects in the offspring of the women who took them.

One of the authors of the study is Dr. Jan Friedman, a professor of medical genetics at the University of British Columbia. In an interview, he suggested it is important to keep the findings in context.

"We talk a lot about the fact that there are all these studies and they don't agree. The fact is they do agree, in the big picture," said Friedman.

"There's none of them that suggests that these are really dangerous drugs. We're not talking about thalidomide. We're not talking about fetal alcohol syndrome. We're not talking about things that have that kind of risk."

The researchers combined data from previously conducted studies and added to it by drawing on data from the U.S. National Birth Defects Prevention Study, a database maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.

The additional data were made up of nearly 18,000 woman who gave birth to babies who had birth defects and nearly 10,000 women whose babies were born without birth defects between 1997 and 2009.

The researchers looked for evidence of elevated rates of 14 different birth defects in the offspring, then looked to see if the women had been using SSRIs during their first trimester of pregnancy. …

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