Journal scan

Certain antidepressants could increase the risk of birth defects

Taking some antidepressants in early pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects, a study in the United States appears to confirm.

A team of researchers based in the US and Canada combined results from independent published analysis with data from the US National Birth Defects Prevention Study. The study included 17,952 mothers of infants with birth defects and 9,857 mothers of infants without birth defects, all born between 1997 and 2009.

Picture credit: Alamy

Use of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), or sertraline (Zoloft) at least once in the period from one month before conception through the third month of pregnancy was recorded.

None of the five previously reported associations between sertraline – the most commonly used SSRI – and birth defects were confirmed.

Two previously reported birth defects associated with fluoxetine were observed: heart wall defects and irregular skull shape (craniosynostosis). Five defects associated with paroxetine were also seen, including heart defects, problems with brain and skull formation (anencephaly), and abdominal wall defects.

The authors emphasise that the increase in absolute risk, if causal, is small.

This article is for subscribers only