Pregnant women often have important decisions to make, especially if they smoke or enjoy a drink. That situation has not been made any easier by recent research concerning the use of antidepressants during pregnancy and the risk of potential harm being caused to their babies. Unfortunately these risks include having a baby born with autism spectrum or development disorder as well as several physical birth defects.
Although all antidepressants taken during pregnancy are known to increase the risk of autism, a family of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRI’s) increase the risk more than others. These include commonly prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft.
Just like other harmful substances SSRI’s easily pass through the placenta and have a negative impact on the development of the fetus.
Following reports of an association between Paroxetine and heart defects, the US Food and Drug Administration published an advisory warning of this potential association in December 2005. More recent studies and reviews have reached conflicting conclusions and this uncertainty has had a profound effect on the perceived safety of antidepressant use in pregnancy.
One study led by Anick Berard of the University of Montreal and published in a 2015 issue of JAMA Paediatrics found that SSRI’s increase the risk of babies developing autism by up to 200% when taken during pregnancy. All types of antidepressants increase the risk by 87%.
“Use of antidepressants, specifically SSRI’s, during the second and/or third trimester increases the risk of autism spectrum disease (ASD) in children, even after considering maternal depression” Berard wrote in her report.
Some of the more serious birth defects linked to SSRI’s include:-
• Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) – a problem that affects a newborn’s heart and lungs;
• Heart defects, especially septal defects or holes in the heart. These are believed to be linked to the use of Fluoxetine (also known as Prozac);
• Anencephaly and craniosynostosis – malformation of the brain and scull, often resulting in early death;
• Cleft pallet/lip;
• Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) – breathing problems typically affecting premature babies.
If you suspect you may have been prescribed a drug during pregnancy that has had a harmful effect on your newborn child and would like some advice, please call David Gazzard on 01793 615011. Your call will be treated in the strictest confidence.