Taking Prozac during pregnancy raises risk of high blood pressure in unborn children
Women taking antidepressants such as Prozac during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children with life-threatening high blood pressure problems, researchers say.
They found that the risk doubles among those taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – the most heavily prescribed antidepressants – in late pregnancy.
Their babies are at greater risk of a rare but severe disease called persistent pulmonary hypertension, a rise in blood pressure in the lungs which can lead to heart failure.
Worrying: Research has found those taking antidepressants such as Prozac during pregnancy are putting their baby at risk
The biggest study of its kind by researchers at the Centre for Pharmacoepidemiology at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm Sweden, reviewed 1.6 million births in total between 1996 and 2007 in five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
Around 11,000 of the mothers took antidepressants in late pregnancy and 17,000 in early pregnancy, says a report in the British Medical Journal.
The use of several drugs was analysed including Prozac and Seroxat.
The results show out of 11,014 mothers who used antidepressants in late pregnancy, 33 babies (0.2 per cent) were born with persistent pulmonary hypertension after assessment at 33 weeks,
Out of 17,053 mothers who used antidepressant drugs in early pregnancy, just 32 babies were diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension.
On guard: Pregnant women are being warned to be careful when taking antidepressants
A total of 114 babies whose mothers had previously been diagnosed with a mental illness were found to be suffering from the disease.
Lead author Dr Helle Kieler, of the Karolinska Institutet, said the risk of developing pulmonary persistent hypertension is low but women should be warned and doctors should weigh the risks of not prescribing antidepressants.
The background risk for women giving birth is around three cases per 1000 women, but this more than doubles if antidepressants are taken in late pregnancy.
She said ‘As the risk of association with treatment in late pregnancy seems to be more than doubled, we recommend caution when treating pregnant women with SSRIs.’
Doctors in the UK are usually cautious about prescribing drugs during pregnancy, although some women need regular medication or do not realise they are pregnant while taking prescription medicines.
Prescriptions of SSRIs soared from seven million in 1997 to 23 million in 2010.
Researchers from the Motherisk Program Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the School of Pharmacy at the University of Oslo said in an editorial that the evidence shows mothers who take SSRIs in late pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children with persistent pulmonary hypertension.
Previous research found that women taking SSRI antidepressants could trigger birth defects in their unborn children, claim researchers.
Using SSRIs in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – when many women may be unaware they are expecting – pushed up the risk of the baby suffering congenital malformations, such as cleft palate, by 40 per cent.
The risk of heart defects was 60 per cent higher among infants born to women taking SSRIs, said the team of researchers from Denmark and the US.