The Scot had no idea her medication could harm her child.
PPHN, or pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, is one side effect associated with SSRI drugs. SSRI, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are a recent class of medications that have been found to be remarkably effective in treating severe depression, a global phenomenon that appears to be affecting more people, but also controlled more often than ever with drug intervention.
That’s all well and good for the depressed patient. However, the rare potential for SSRI birth defects is casting SSRI drugs in a new and not-so-complimentary light. To that end, a documentary prepared and aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) featured a group of SSRI mothers in a discussion moderated by Professor Stephen Pilling, adviser to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK.
According to the Daily Record & Sunday Mail (7/3/13), one in seven Scots take antidepressants. It is estimated that three percent of women continue to take SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy.
They may do so in spite of the risks for SSRI side effects that could negatively impact their babies. The debate over depression and the need for medication to manage that depression is a global one. Women’s health care advocates continue to lobby that women with serious depression should continue their SSRI medication, rather than risk unbridled depression and the health risks to mother - and unborn child - in the process. Experts have found that a seriously depressed woman whose depression remains unchecked could pass serious emotional health issues to the child.
The other side to the argument, however, is that in maintaining SSRI use the mother could also be passing serious physical issues to the child - issues from which the child may not survive, or at the very least remains severely harmed. Many an SSRI lawsuit alleges just that.
Pilling makes the point in the Panorama documentary that the risk of any baby emerging with a birth defect even in a completely healthy mother is about two in 100 births. However, that risk rises to about four in 100 - in other words, the risk doubles - when a woman takes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors early in pregnancy.
Professor Pilling is of the view that continuing with an SSRI during pregnancy is not worth the risk. However, other health advocates say that the relationship between depression control and medication should be an individual decision made in concert with the patient and her doctor.
READ MORE SSRI BIRTH DEFECTS LEGAL NEWS
In the meantime, the Washington Post (5/7/13) reports on a whole new set of worrisome issues related to the use of SSRI antidepressants. According to the venerable newspaper, a study released in the spring noted that surgical patients taking an SSRI prior to their surgical procedure were 22 percent more likely to be re-admitted to the hospital within 30 days of initial discharge. The meta-analysis of 530,416 adults - mostly in their 60’s and having had non-emergency surgery - found that 20 percent were more likely to die while still in the hospital, with 9 percent more likely to present with bleeding problems.
The study on this relatively new basket of SSRI side effects was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine (4/29/13).