One study, published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ; 1/12/12) examined the risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) when mothers used an SSRI during pregnancy. The study's authors found that the risk of PPHN was increased two times when an SSRI medication was used late in pregnancy. In a subanalysis, researchers investigated the risk of PPHN when mothers used an SNRI during late pregnancy. "Exposure to the other antidepressants with an effect on serotonin activity or norepinephrine activity also generated increased risks," researchers wrote.
Although the absolute risk was still relatively low (three per 1,000 births), that the risk doubled due to exposure late in pregnancy is still a concern. Under normal circumstances with no exposure to SSRIs, the relative risk is 1.2 births per 1,000. Researchers recommended caution when treating women late in pregnancy with SSRIs.
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Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn is a serious condition in which the infant does not adjust properly to breathing outside the womb. Approximately 15 percent of infants born with the condition die from it. Lawsuits have been filed against some antidepressant makers, alleging maternal use of their drugs while pregnant resulted in infants being born with PPHN.