New Study Finds Link Between Antidepressants and Birth Defects

May 02, 2017

antidepressants and birth defects

Depression is one of the most serious and seldom talked about disorders, affecting over 15 million American adults. To make matters even worse, antidepressants can often produce several additional side effects in patients, including sexual effects, dangerous and uncontrollable impulse control, and suicidal thoughts.

But depression sufferers may very well have a new concern to add to the list, according to the findings of a new study: birth defects.

The study, performed by the Universite de Montreal and published in the British Medical Journal, revealed that pregnant women who take antidepressants could increase the chance of their baby having birth defects.

Anick Bérard, the study’s senior author and a professor at UdeM’s Faculty of Pharmacy, has previously led research that established links between antidepressants and gestational hypertension, miscarriages, and low birth weight.

Bérard’s study looked at 18,487 women in Quebec’s Pregnancy Cohort, which is a population-based grouping of nearly 300,000 pregnancies that were recorded between 1998 – 2009. 3,640 women – close to 20% – took antidepressants in the first three months of their pregnancy.

Bérard stated that they focused on the first trimester because that is the time period where organ systems develop. According to the findings, using antidepressants during this developmental window has the potential to interfere with the fetus’ serotonin intake, resulting in malformations.

“Serotonin during early pregnancy is essential for the development of all embryonic cells, and thus any insult that disturbs the serotonin signaling process has the potential to result in a wide variety of malformations,” the study says.

Ultimately, the study concluded that the risk of birth defects jumps from 6% – 10% for women taking antidepressants during the first trimester as opposed to 3% to 5% in women who do not. Bérard believes the increased risk is enough to warrant caution.

“In pregnancy, you’re treating the mother but you’re worried about the unborn child, and the benefit needs to outweigh the risk,” she said.

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