The widely used antidepressants Paxil and Prozac are linked to higher rates of birth defects, but several similar drugs used to treat depression in pregnant women carry no such risks, a new study found.
The study, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), analyzed conflicting results from previous studies along with new data on nearly 28,000 births. It found no links between birth defects and other anti-depression drugs including Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro.
Concerns about antidepressants and birth defect risks aren’t anything new: the debate has been going on for years, and studies have shown conflicting results.
But this study, which did not definitively prove that Paxil and Prozac cause birth defects, yielded disturbing evidence of a link:
CDC researcher Jennita Reefhuis said the study provides strong support for some links suggested by previous studies on drugs collectively known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), she says. Specifically:
• Both Paxil (paroxetine) and Prozac (fluoxetine) were linked with a defect that obstructs blood flow from the heart to the lungs.
• Paxil also was linked with holes in the heart wall and with anencephaly, a condition in which babies are born without parts of the brain and skull.
The study also found evidence linking Prozac with irregularly shaped skulls and linking Paxil with abdominal wall defects, but that evidence is not as strong, Reefhuis said.
While risks for some conditions doubled or tripled among women taking Paxil or Prozac, the overall risks remained low, Reefhuis said.
For women taking Paxil, the risk of giving birth to a child with anencephaly rose from 2 in 10,000 to 7 in 10,000; the risk of giving birth to a child with a heart blood flow problem rose from 10 in 10,000 to 24 in 10,000, the study found. (source)
“If you’re planning to get pregnant, it really is important to talk with your health care provider to see if there are options and if you could choose a safer option among antidepressants,” Reefhuis says. “Of course, not all antidepressants work the same for everybody, so that’s something that women need to consult with their health care provider about.”