A new study warns that mothers who take a common class of antidepressant medication may increase the risk of giving birth to children with high blood pressure in the lungs.
Swedish researchers say that while the risk is small, mothers who take a serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) late in pregnancy appear to double the risk in comparision with non-exposed cases.
Commonly used SSRI antidepressants include Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram), Prozac (fluoxetine), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Paxil (paroxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline).
Investigators acknowledge that the risks of a baby being born with persistent pulmonary hypertension are low. Normally only three infants per 1,000 develop the condition although when mothers take a SSRI late in pregnancy, the risk doubles.
As a result, experts caution the use of SSRIs among pregnant women.
Persistent pulmonary hypertension is a condition with high blood pressure in the lungs leading to difficulties in breathing. It is a rare but severe disease with strong links to heart failure.
The study, carried out by researchers from the five Nordic countries, looked at 1.6 million births in total between 1996 and 2007 in babies born after 231 days (33 weeks) in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
A total of 1,618,255 singleton births were included in the study. Approximately 11,000 of the mothers filled out a prescription for antidepressants in late pregnancy and approximately 17,000 in early pregnancy.
Researchers identified 54,184 mothers as having previously undergone psychiatric diagnosis but were not currently taking any medication.
The uses of several drugs were analyzed which included fluoxetine, citalopram, paroxetine, sertraline, fluvoxamine and escitalopram.
The study’s results found that out of 11,014 mothers who used antidepressants in late pregnancy, 33 babies (0.2 percent) were born with persistent pulmonary hypertension and out of 17,053 mothers who used antidepressant drugs in early pregnancy, 32 babies (less than 0.2 percent) were diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension.
A total of 114 babies whose mothers had previously been diagnosed with a mental illness were found to be suffering from the disease.
The study is published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Source: Karolinska Institutet