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Study Suggests Link between Prozac and Birth Defects

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Santa Fe, NMA new study suggests a link between the use of Prozac and birth defects. The study, conducted in Finland, found a small risk of Prozac side effects in infants exposed to the medication prior to birth. Those Prozac side effects reportedly include heart defects, which can be serious for newborns.

According to Reuters (06/24/11), the study found that the use of fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil) during pregnancy was linked to a slightly higher risk of birth defects in babies. The study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology (07/11) found that 105 out of 10,000 babies born to mothers taking fluoxetine experienced a birth defect, while 31 out of 10,000 babies exposed to paroxetine had birth defects.

Although the total number of infants with birth defects after exposure to an antidepressant was small, it was still well above the numbers for infants not exposed to an antidepressant. For example, 105 of 10,000 babies exposed to fluoxetine developed ventricular septal defects, where as 49 out of 10,000 babies not exposed to fluoxetine developed the same defect.

Those birth defects reportedly associated with the use of certain antidepressants included ventricular septal defects, neural tube defects (reportedly associated with Celexa) and ventricular outflow tract defects. Furthermore, the study found that babies who were exposed to antidepressants prior to birth had an increased risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

The study does not prove that birth defects are caused by antidepressants but does suggest a link between the use of antidepressants while pregnant and birth defects. "The absolute risk for these specific cardiac anomalies is small but should guide clinicians not to consider fluoxetine or paroxetine the first option when prescribing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors to women planning pregnancy," researchers concluded.

Researchers cautioned that there are still times where the benefits to taking antidepressants while pregnant outweigh the risks. Untreated depression can also have consequences for newborn babies and for the mother.

Both Prozac and Paxil belong to a class of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These antidepressants have been linked in some studies to an increased risk of birth defects, including congenital (heart) defects and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).

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