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Preterm Birth Linked to Antidepressants

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Another study has found that antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake (SSRI) inhibitors could cause problems for babies whose mothers took the drugs during pregnancy.

For this study, researchers at the Bandim Health Project in Guinea-Bissau looked at health records of more than 56,000 women who received prenatal care from the University of Aarhus Hospital between 1989 and 2006. About 300 of them had received SSRIs during their pregnancy and nearly 5,000 of the study participants had a history of psychiatric problems but did not take any SSRIs while being treated for their pregnancy.

According to the study authors, women who took SSRIs delivered their babies five days earlier than other women in the study, and were twice as likely to give birth prematurely. Babies born to these women were also more likely to have a five-minute APGAR score of seven or below. A baby considered healthy generally has a score of seven or higher.  They also faced a higher risk of being admitted to the intensive care unit, and some showed signs of withdrawal.

Popular SSRIs include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro.  SSRIs affect seratonin levels in the brain, a chemical neurotransmitter. Seratonin is produced in the brain on an ongoing basis and in response to pleasure-giving experiences, in a normally healthy system.

These drugs have been associated with other problems when used during pregnancy. Paxil, for instance, has been shown to increase the risk of heart related birth defects. In fact, on two occasions in 2005 , the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requested that the labeling of Paxil be changed to include warnings on three studies that found an increase risk of birth defects. Most of the heart defects reported in these studies were atrial and ventricular septal defects (holes in the walls of the chambers of the heart). That same year, the FDA also classified the birth defect risk as Category D (Positive Evidence of Fetal Risk).

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