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SSRI Antidepressants In Pregnancy Linked To Newborn Lung Problem

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Antidepressant use during pregnancy has been linked to lung problems in newborn babies, according to an emerging study.

The study found that expectant mothers taking widely prescribed antidepressants are at a two-fold increased risk for giving birth to babies diagnosed with a rare, but serious, lung disorder, said WebMD. Specifically, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants such as Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft were linked to persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN) in this study.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), SSRIs such as Celexa (citalopram); Lexapro (escitalopram); Luvox and Luvox CR (fluvoxamine); Paxil, Paxil CR, and Pexeva (paroxetine); Prozac, Sarafem, and Symbyax (fluoxetine); Viibryd (vilazodone); and Zoloft (sertraline), are among the most popular drugs prescribed to treat depression during pregnancy. Yet, no sufficient, well-controlled studies of SSRIs in pregnant women exist.

PPHN occurs in about 1-2 newborns per 1,000 births and is a lung disorder in which the arteries are severely restricted. This restriction causes blood pressure in the heart’s pulmonary artery to rise to very high levels, which leaves babies unable to

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cope with breathing outside the womb, said NewsInferno. Newborns born with PPHN may need intensive care and a mechanical ventilator to increase their oxygen level. Severe, PPHN can lead to multiple organ damage, brain damage, and death.

For this study, the researchers, from Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, reviewed birth registry data for all babies born 1996-2007 in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, which accounted for 1.6 million births. There were 33 cases of PPHN in babies whose mothers took SSRIs late in their pregnancies, which amounted to about three cases per 1,000 births, according to Web MD. This is double the amount that would be expected in the general newborn population for babies.

Babies born to mothers with a history of a prior hospitalization for a psychiatric disorder and who did not take an SSRI when pregnant also had a slightly increased PPHN risk. PPHN risk factors include, said WebMD, maternal obesity, diabetes, and smoking; 5-10 percent of babies with PPHN do not survive.

“This is by far the largest study to examine SSRI use and PPHN, but the fact that women with untreated depression had a higher risk for the disorder raises new doubts about this link,” said Gideon Koren, MD of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. “Many doubts remain, and they should be shared with patients.”

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