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Another Study Weighs In on SSRI Birth Defects

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Chicago, ILA new study suggests that SSRI birth defects might not be as much of a concern as previously thought. The study, which examined whether SSRI side effects might affect an infant’s growth, found that exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) prior to birth did not have a significant impact on the infant’s growth.

The study was conducted by researchers at Northwestern University, who examined whether being exposed to SSRI antidepressants prior to birth had an impact on an infant’s weight, length and head circumference during the first year after birth. Included in the study were women who used an SSRI during pregnancy, those who were depressed but used no SSRI during pregnancy, and those who did not have depression and did not use an SSRI during pregnancy.

Researchers found that infants exposed to antidepressants prior to birth were shorter at birth, but by two weeks of age had caught up to infants not exposed to antidepressants. Furthermore, infants whose mothers were depressed but did not take antidepressants during pregnancy had similar growth to the general population.

“Most women want to know about the effect of their depressive illness or the medication they take during pregnancy not only on the infant at birth, but also on the baby’s longer-term growth and development,” said Northwestern Medicine lead author Katherine L. Wisner, M.D., in a news release from the university. “This information may help women balance the risks and benefits of continuing their antidepressant treatment during pregnancy.”

The study was published March 20, 2013, in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Researchers concluded, “In utero exposure to major depression or SSRI antidepressants did not affect infant growth with respect to weight, length, or head circumference from birth through 12 months of age.”

Although there are reported risks to fetuses when mothers have untreated depression, studies have suggested that there is a risk associated with taking antidepressants while pregnant. Among those reported risks suggested by some studies are a risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, cleft palate, congenital malformations and developmental delays. Studies have offered conflicting evidence on SSRI use during pregnancy and birth defects, with some suggesting a link and others finding no link between the two.

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