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Taking SSRIs during late pregnancy may increase risk to newborns

Treating women for depression during late pregnancy with some antidepressant drugs can raise the risk of their babies experiencing high blood pressure in the lungs and breathing difficulties, according to a new study.

Researchers say the risk is heightened for newborn babies of expectant mothers who are given selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during late pregnancy.

And they say although the risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) from SSRIs is still low, counselling about the condition and how it can be successfully managed should be given to pregnant women and their families if they are considering using the drugs.

But they concluded that women’s depression during pregnancy should not be left untreated.

Persistent pulmonary hypertension is rare but can be severe when it is associated with other conditions.

The researchers in Canada sought to summarise data from previous studies that had conflicting findings on the possible link between SSRI use in pregnancy and high blood pressure in the lungs of newborn babies. Their study is published on bmj.com.

Its findings suggest a small but significantly raised risk of PPHN from SSRI use during late pregnancy. But researchers found no evidence of an increased risk for infants exposed to the drugs during early pregnancy.

They say there is risk of PPHN in about one in 500 births, estimating that between 286 and 351 women would need to be treated with an SSRI during late pregnancy for one extra case to arise.

The study’s authors say future research should focus on whether other classes of antidepressants carry a similar risk and whether or not other factors such as obesity, pre-term delivery and caesarean section have an effect.

 

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