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Anti-depressant use in pregnancy may lead to still-borns: Study

Certain anti-depressants belonging to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs could lead to stillbirth, suggests a Canadian study.

April 10, 2006

SSRIs that include drugs such as Prozac work by increasing levels of the mood chemical serotonin in the brain. 

The study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology was conducted in almost 5,000 mothers found those who used SSRIs were also more likely to have premature and low birth weight babies. 

The University of Ottawa researchers found that women using the drugs were twice as likely to have a stillbirth. They compared the health of babies born to 972 women taking SSRI anti-depressants with that of babies born to mothers who did not use anti-depressan They were also almost twice as likely to have a low birth weight baby. 

Almost 20% of women who used SSRIs gave birth prematurely, compared to 12% of those who did not use the drugs. Babies born to women using SSRIs were also more likely to have seizures. 

The researchers said women should be fully briefed about the potential risk of SSRIs before taking a decision about whether or not to use them. 

Previously, Danish and US scientists found use of the drugs in the first three months of pregnancy was linked to a 40% increased risk of birth defects such as cleft palate. 

That research also suggested that use of SSRIs in pregnancy raised the risk of a premature birth. 

In a separate study, Spanish research found that babies whose mothers used SSRIs are at risk of being born with withdrawal symptoms. 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has warned doctors not to prescribe most SSRI drugs, apart from Prozac, to children. 

This followed evidence that use of the drugs in young people might increase the risk of suicidal behaviour. 

A spokesman for Eli Lilly, which manufactures, Prozac said the company had never promoted the use of the drug for pregnant or nursing mothers.

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