Antidepressant Poses Risk to Unborn Baby

This February 8, 2006 USA Today article commences with a grave warning to expectant women, "Women taking a standard form of antidepressant within the second half of their pregnancy are about six times more prone to give birth to a newborn having a rare yet potentially terminal heart and lung condition."

The issues originate from drugs called SSRI antidepressants including Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. The possible concern is an uncommon but serious situation called PPHN: persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn. Normally, the rate of PPHN is one or two per 1000 babies. The current study reveals the rate of this problem to increase to 1 in 100 in females taking these antidepressants late into their pregnancy. PPHN kills up to 20 % of babies and half the survivors remain with serious abnormalities

The research, prompting the alarms, is printed inside the February 9, 2006 publication of the New England Journal of Medicine. Lead author on the study, Christina Chambers, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Departments of Pediatrics and Family and Preventive Medicine at UCSD noted how the chance of incidence of those troubles are higher in females taking these antidepressants. She states, "Based on our findings, we estimate that six to twelve mothers per thousand who use an SSRI after 20 weeks' gestation, will likely deliver a baby with PPHN."

Dr. Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the office of new drugs at the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research commented, "This seems to be an extremely well-conducted study and we find the leads to be very concerning."

During an unrelated study published in the February 2, 2006 publication of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, it was determined that almost one-third of infants born to mothers using SSRI antidepressants at or near term experienced withdrawal symptoms referred to as neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. Quite simply these infants are susceptible to withdrawal symptoms. This syndrome is characterized by high-pitched crying, tremors, and sleep disturbances. The authors of the study also note, "The long-term effects of prolonged exposure to SSRIs, particularly in neonates who develop severe symptoms, have yet to be determined."

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