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9 February 2006
Another Warning For Mothers-To-Be Taking Antidepressants

Recent findings that a mother's use of antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft can trigger withdrawal symptoms in newborn infants may gain added impetus now that another study has found that such infants could be at risk of a life-threatening hypertensive condition.

The new University of California, San Diego (UCSD) study found an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) in the newborns of mothers who used antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).

PPHN is a serious condition that involves severe respiratory failure in newborn infants and requires immediate treatment. The condition occurs in only a small percentage of babies but the researchers say that the risk is elevated if the mother was taking SSRI antidepressants late in the pregnancy. The study found that exposure to antidepressants other than SSRIs did not pose a risk for PPHN. In addition, women who discontinued use of SSRIs in the first half of pregnancy did not have an increased risk of delivering a child with the condition.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, based its findings on a review of more than 1,000 deliveries between 1998 and 2003. "Based on our findings, we estimate that six to twelve mothers per thousand who use an SSRI after 20 weeks' gestation, are likely to deliver a child with PPHN," said researcher Christina Chambers. She added that this was a relatively low risk, with PPHN affecting around one percent of exposed newborns.

Despite the risk, the researchers point out that mothers may need to continue SSRI treatment during pregnancy in order to care for themselves appropriately.

Source: University of California - San Diego

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