Wednesday, June 27, 2007

SSRIs pose little risk to unborn

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Today brought reassuring news about pregnancy and antidepressant use. In an article appearing in this week's New England Journal of Medicine, researchers in two separate studies said the risk of birth defects among the babies of women taking SSRIs was rare. Neither study was able to establish a connection between birth defects and use of SSRIs.

Antidepressant-Birth Defect Risk Small

The research focuses on the class of drugs chosen most often for depression and anxiety, including the brands Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.

Paxil carries a warning of possible heart defects in newborns, and experts don't expect the new research to change that. However, they find the new studies comforting for women struggling with depression.

The possibility of birth defects from antidepressants has put doctors and patients in a tricky quandary. Birth defects obviously hurt newborns, but depressed mothers who can't give proper care also endanger their babies.

Confusing matters, researchers have wondered whether the concern about birth defects should extend beyond Paxil to this entire class of drugs, known as selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. The two latest studies, appearing Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, relieve some of that worry, say birth specialists.

"Yeah, there's a risk, but the risk overall is probably pretty small," said Dr. Susan Ramin, obstetrics chairman at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, who was familiar with the findings.

The two studies -- one from the federal Centers for Disease Control and the other from Boston University -- use more cases of birth defects than previous research to consider links between the abnormalities and SSRIs. The Boston University study was funded partly by the National Institutes of Health and Paxil maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

Together, the two studies looked at 19,471 newborns with birth defects and 9,952 without them. Then they considered what SSRIs the mothers in both groups took during the first three months of pregnancy and mapped the patterns of birth defects.

This information is a big weight off my shoulders as C and I move forward toward our goal of starting a family.

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