Mothers' Use of Anti-Depressants Could Harm Newborns

Mothers' Use of Anti-Depressants Could Harm Newborns

Posted By The Maher Law Firm || 24-Feb-2014

Orlando and Winterpark Dangerous Drugs Lawyers

Women undergoing the hormonal changes of pregnancy may struggle with depression. The decision to use anti-depressants to treat major depression should be made by the doctor and expectant mother with an understanding of the risks of the drugs. A recent meta-analysis shows that the popular class of anti-depressants known as SSRIs may be a dangerous choice for women who are expecting, because the drugs could lead to negative health outcomes for newborns.

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are the most popular class of antidepressant drugs in the U.S. They work by regulating the uptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin. They have proven helpful in battling depression for billions of people around the world. But the results aren't positive for everyone who takes them.

Pulmonary Hypertension in Infants

Over the past several years, numerous studies have had conflicting results on the dangers of SSRI use by pregnant women. Some have found no danger, while others have recommended against their use by women who are expecting. In the recent paper, 3,077 abstracts were reviewed, 738 papers selected, and seven studies ultimately included to try and find a consensus.

Published in the medical journal BMJ, the research found a significantly increased risk of pulmonary hypertension in newborns whose mothers took SSRIs late in pregnancy.

Pulmonary hypertension in newborns is defined as the failure of the circulatory system to transition following birth. After the baby leaves the womb, its lungs must begin breathing air for the first time. Pulmonary hypertension prevents this change from happening successfully. It can result in respiratory distress, shock, heart murmurs, asphyxia, and death.

Duty to Warn

Because previous studies have come to conflicting conclusions on the use of SSRIs by pregnant women, many doctors still allow their patients to continue on an SSRI regimen well into their first, second, and third trimesters. Given the rate of women who suffer from depression in this country, thousands of unborn children may be at risk if their mothers take any of the following drugs during pregnancy:

  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Celexa (citalopram)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 take antidepressants. Women are far more likely to take them than men. Of those suffering from severe symptoms of depression, 39.9 percent of women take SSRIs compared with 21 percent of men. More than 24 percent of women with only mild symptoms take anti-depressants, compared with only 11.5 percent of men.

Because depression can be so debilitating and because pregnancy can come with additional emotional and mental challenges, doctors often tell women to stay on their antidepressants throughout the pregnancy despite the risks. As a matter of fact, many women aren't warned of the risks.

Pharmaceutical companies and doctors alike have a duty to alert women to the risks these potentially dangerous medications pose to an unborn child. As this recent analysis shows, this highly popular class of drug could have tragic implications when taken late in pregnancy.

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