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Use of SSRIs Versus Untreated Depression during Pregnancy Studied

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Boston, MAFor women looking for an answer to the question of whether or not to risk SSRI side effects while pregnant, a recent study attempts to offer some insight. Women who have depression while pregnant face an important question of whether such side effects, such as Celexa side effects, are worth the benefits. One important question is whether the risk of so-called Celexa birth defects are more serious than the risks of untreated depression.

A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry (3/5/12) examined the effects of maternal SSRI use while pregnant on the fetus and on birth outcomes. In undertaking the study, researchers noted, "Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are frequently prescribed to pregnant women, but knowledge about their unintended effects on child health is scarce."

To conduct the study, researchers examined 7,696 pregnant women, most of whom were between 27 and 30 years of age. Of the 669 women who showed symptoms of depression, 99 took an SSRI antidepressant while the other 570 did not take any antidepressant. All women included in the study underwent sonograms to measure the growth of the fetus, including the weight and head size.

Researchers found that mothers who used SSRI medications while pregnant had fewer depressive symptoms than women with untreated depression, but also had reduced fetal head growth and a higher risk of preterm birth. Women who had untreated depression while pregnant had slower rates of fetal body and head growth than women with no depressive symptoms. Researchers concluded that further studies should be conducted to confirm the implications of their findings.

What the study suggests is that there are risks both to having untreated depression and to taking SSRI medications while pregnant. It does not examine, however, the risks to treating depression while pregnant with other antidepressants, nor does it explore the risks of treating depression while pregnant without medicines—such as through talk therapy. Finally, it did not appear to examine the risk of birth defects such as persistent primary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), which has been linked to maternal SSRI use in some studies.

Other infant side effects reportedly linked to SSRI medications include an increased risk of autism, oral clefts and other birth defects. Women who are taking an antidepressant and are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant should not discontinue their medication without speaking to a medical professional.


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