Antidepressants before and during pregnancy can lead to worst outcomes like babies with cardiac problems, autism or low birth weight, researchers say.
The results come at a time when antidepressant use among women aged between 18 and 44 has increased considerably over the past few years. Lead author of the study Alice Domar and colleagues reviewed previous studies to examine the benefits and risks associated with taking antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) during pregnancy.
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"More broadly, there is little evidence of benefit from the antidepressants prescribed for the majority of women of childbearing age-and there is ample evidence of risk," the authors wrote, in a statement.
According to the researchers, taking SSRI during infertility treatment reduces the chance to get pregnant. Apart from that, it can lead to miscarriages, congenital abnormalities, preterm birth, hypertension and preeclampsia. They found Paxil, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline associated with cardiac defects in babies. Domar and team also found a higher risk of preterm birth among women who took antidepressants during pregnancy.
Apart from that antidepressants were found increasing the risks of giving birth to small babies, with low birth weight and respiratory distress. Exposure to antidepressants in the womb was found increasing the risks of Newborn Behavioral Syndrome, condition associated with persistent crying, restlessness and feeding difficulties.
They also found following an antidepressant medication during first trimester increasing the risks of giving birth to a child with autism spectrum disorders.
After finding the risks associated with antidepressant use before and after pregnancy, researchers reviewed some studies and found cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) an effective substitute for antidepressants to treat depression during pregnancy.
"There is enough evidence to strongly recommend that great caution be exercised before prescribing SSRI antidepressants to women who are pregnant or who are attempting to get pregnant, whether or not they are undergoing infertility treatment," Domar said. "We want to stress that depressive symptoms should be taken seriously and should not go untreated prior to or during pregnancy, but there are other options out there that may be as effective, or more effective than SSRIs without all the attendant risks."
Results of the study have been published in the journal Human Reproduction.