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Will Prozac Side Effects Turn Expectant Mothers Off of the Medication?

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Houston, TXFor expectant mothers, worry about Prozac side effects along with all the other things they have to worry about may be overwhelming. After all, they have to balance the risk of Prozac birth defects against the risk of untreated depression. But as more studies suggest a link between Prozac and birth defects, expectant mothers may find they are strongly considering their alternatives.

Two recently published studies suggest a link between the use of Prozac and birth defects. One study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry (online, 07/04/11) found a link between the use of Prozac while pregnant and a risk of having a baby diagnosed with autism.

What scientists found was a modest increase in the risk of autism spectrum disorder in infants whose mothers took a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI, a class of antidepressant that includes Prozac) during the 12 months before delivery.

While the risk of having a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder doubled when the mother took an SSRI during the year prior to delivery, the risk was further increased when the SSRI was taken during the first trimester of pregnancy. The study led researchers to conclude that "The potential risk associated with exposure must be balanced with the risk to the mother or fetus of untreated mental health disorders." Researchers further noted that more studies must be done to extend the findings.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, autism spectrum disorder affects approximately 3.5 out of every 1,000 children age three to 10. Disorders that fall under the autism spectrum disorder diagnosis involve symptoms such as impairment in communications skills and social interactions, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. The disorders range from severe (called autistic disorder) to mild (called Asperger syndrome). Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder also run from mild to severe.

Additionally, children with autism spectrum disorder may have sensory problems, seizures and mental impairment.

Meanwhile, a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology (07/11) found an increased risk in the development of isolated ventricular septal defects when an expectant mother took fluoxetine. Although researchers noted the risk was small, they recommended that fluoxetine not be the first option when prescribing an SSRI to a woman planning on becoming pregnant.

A septal defect is a hole in the heart's wall, which causes improper circulation of the blood. Patients with a septal defect may require open-heart surgery.

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