Researchers analyzed data from 228,876 pregnancies that were covered by Tennessee Medicaid from 1995-2007. Their findings were published online May 2, 2012, in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Of the 228,876 pregnancies studied, 23,280 women had prescriptions for antidepressants prior to becoming pregnant. Of those women, 75 percent discontinued use of the antidepressants in the second or third trimester, while just under 11 percent continued antidepressant use throughout their pregnancy.
Researchers found that filling antidepressant prescriptions during the second trimester was associated with shortened gestational age, meaning the infant was born sooner in the pregnancy. Women who filled two or more antidepressant prescriptions during the second trimester had babies born four to five days earlier, on average. In fact, for each prescription filled during the second trimester, the odds of going into early labor doubled.
Meanwhile, women who used a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) during the third trimester were more likely to have newborns that had seizures. Women who filled three or more prescriptions during the last trimester were at five times the risk of having a newborn who experienced seizures, when compared with women who did not use the SSRIs. The seizures were not associated with any long-term health problems for the infants.
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Previous studies suggest a link between the use of SSRIs while pregnant and the development of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), autism and other birth defects in infants. However not all studies have found such an association.