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Newborn Complications Linked to Antidepressants

newborn baby

More than one in ten expectant mothers develop depression at some time during their pregnancy even though becoming a mother-to-be is supposed to be a joyful time in a woman’s life.  Today’s women are treated with a type of antidepressant that may increase their likelihood of having a pre-term birth, or raise the risk for their newborn to be placed in  neonatal intensive care.

Recent data has showed that babies of women who were given selective serotonin re uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy were born earlier and had a higher likelihood of being admitted to intensive care.  According to the researchers, mothers who took the drugs during pregnancy found SSRIs to cross the placenta and have been found present in the umbilical cord blood of babies.

To discover the effects of SSRIs on newborns, the research team examined the birth outcomes of babies born to 329 women who took SSRIs during pregnancy to those women who did not.  4,902 women having a history of psychiatric illness were among those who did not take the drugs and 51,770 women who had no history of mental illness.  All of the infants in the study had undergone prenatal care at Aarhus University Hospital between 1989 and 2006.

In comparison to the other women, for those who took SSRIs during pregnancy, births happened an average of 5 days earlier were twice as likely to deliver pre-term.  They were also 2.4 times as likely to be accepted into the neonatal intensive are and had more than four times the likelihood of having a 5-minute Apgar score falling below eight, while scores of seven and above are considered healthy.  (Apgar scores measure an infant’s health at birth based on breathing, heartbeat, reflexes, muscle tone and skin color.)  Seizures, jitteriness, infections, respiratory problems and jaundice were other adverse effects seen among infants born to mothers taking SSRIs who were admitted to neonatal intensive care.

Birth weight and head circumference were not affected.  Benefits of these SSRIs antidepressants may still outweigh the risks in some cases, because depression itself can lead to ill effects for both the mother and the baby.  “The study justifies increased awareness to the possible effects of intrauterine exposure to antidepressants, according to the researchers.  However, future studies need to distinguish between individuals SSRIs to find the safest treatment of depressing during pregnancy maybe required.  Women have been using SSRIs including Zoloft, Prozac and others during pregnancy sine the early 1990’s.

These drugs are thought to be the safest type of antidepressant that can be taken during pregnancy.  A medical student researcher at the University of Asrhus in Denmark at the time the study was conducted, lead researcher Jajaaraq Lund, M. D., said, “As depression itself can influence birth outcome  in a negative direction, treatment is required in some cases based on today’s body of evidence.”  She went on to explain, psychotherapy could be used as an alternative treatment in cases involving mild or moderate symptoms.

However, in caustic cases, as well as in patients with a history of repeating, severe depression, medical treatment could be the best option.  Lund then pointed out, “Every single case should be considered individually, and the decision should be made by the woman and her ob-gyn and psychiatrist as to the best treatment for her.”  Other researchers concluded that babies born to mothers taking SSRIs at the time of delivery should be watched carefully in the hospital setting for at least 48 hours after birth.  There is now proof that pregnancy does not protect against depression, just like the post-partum period, pregnancy is a biologically vulnerable period for this disease.”

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