A new study suggests that taking antidepressants during pregnancy may not be as dangerous as once thought.
Pregnant women are told to avoid a long list of items, including alcohol, nicotine, and a number of prescription medications. But according to a UPI report, a recent study reveals that a common type of prescription, antidepressants, pose no risk of fetal heart defects, despite a widely held prior belief that they were an underlying cause.
A team of scientists from University College London found that antidepressants had no significant connection to congenital heart defects in infants. This has long been a concern for expecting mothers who were taking medications to treat their depression, but the recent discovery suggests that it is safer than once believed.
There were several earlier studies that suggested certain antidepressants, notably selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), were linked to a heightened risk of birth defects if they were taken in the first trimester of pregnancy. One study even suggested that SSRIs were likely to increase the risk of an autism diagnosis before age 7, but the recent finding flies in the face of previous research.
According to Dr. Irene Petersen from University College London, “Women often receive conflicting messages on whether they should continue taking antidepressants during pregnancy and many women may discontinue antidepressants in pregnancy because they fear adverse effects on their unborn child.”
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, analyzed data from the Health Improvement Network database, collected by primary care physicians from over 209,135 patients. The database held information about the health status of children born to women who were taking antidepressants during pregnancy. Of the sample group, 5,154 women had taken SSRIs before pregnancy, 2,776 had taken SSRIs during pregnancy, and 992 received other antidepressants during pregnancy. 200,213 of the sample participants received no antidepressants.
The scientists found that less than one percent of children had congenital heart defects within five years of birth. Around 70 percent of pregnant women discontinue using antidepressants in the U.S., but the study suggests that this may not be entirely necessary.
A press release from University College London describing the details of the recent study can be found here.