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Could Autism Be Added to the List of Celexa Side Effects?

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Nashville, TNTwo new studies could add to the list of research that alleges Celexa side effects, like those of other antidepressants in Celexa's class, could include a risk of birth defects. Although the risks of the Celexa birth defects appear to be small, researchers say the results are worth further investigation. One of the studies specifically linked Celexa to birth defects, while the second study linked selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants that includes Celexa, to possible birth defects.

The first study was published in the July 2011 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology and found a small association between the use of citalopram (the generic version of Celexa) and an increased risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Furthermore, researchers found that infants exposed to SSRI medications prior to birth had an increased risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Researchers noted that the study does not prove that SSRIs cause these birth defects but does show an association.

Meanwhile, a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry (07/11) found that women who used SSRI medications in the 12 months prior to delivery had an increased risk of giving birth to a baby with autism spectrum disorder. That risk was double the risk in women who did not use an SSRI in those 12 months. The risk of having a baby with autism spectrum disorder increased four times when the SSRI was taken during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Researchers concluded that physicians should weigh the risks of prescribing SSRI medications to women who are planning on becoming pregnant against the potential benefits.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have previously been linked to an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), a potentially fatal condition in which the blood pumped through the infant's body is not properly oxygenated. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine (2006) found that women who used SSRI medications during their third trimester were more likely to deliver babies with PPHN than women who did not take SSRIs during their third trimester.

Celexa is classified by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as pregnancy category C, meaning studies in animals have shown potential harm to the fetus, but there are not adequate studies in humans.

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