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July 24, 2015Posted in: Service Users & Volunteers Tagged: ,

CDC finds association between antidepressants and birth defects

Many people struggle with depression in both Canada and around the world.

Some of these individuals take medication (anti-depressants) to help manage their symptoms. That is why new research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has made the news in many cities across North America. Their study, published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday, examined 17,952 moms whose children were born with birth defects and 9,875 moms whose kids didn’t have birth defects. Some of the moms (1,285) were taking SSRIs.

shutterstock_289222910SSRIs, which stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are the most commonly prescribed antidepressant. Why did they study this? Well, they studied these women because they took the SSRIs a month before conceiving through to their first trimester. Researchers believe that this time span is when developing babies are at their most vulnerable.

The participants used drugs including Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, and Lexapro. The study reported an association between a birth defect (right ventricular outflow tract obstruction cardiac defects) and the mom’s use of Prozac or Paxil. The study also reported an association between other birth defects (anencephaly or atrial septal defects) and mothers’ usage of Paxil. Before you make any conclusions, read what the authors had to say about this.

They explained that: “If these associations are causal, the absolute risks in the children of women who are treated with paroxetine early in pregnancy would increase for anencephaly from 2 per 10 00024 to 7 per 10 000, and for right ventricular outflow tract obstruction cardiac defects from 10 per 10 00025 to 24 per 10 000. The absolute risks for these birth defects are still low.”

In other words, while the authors did find an association, this does not mean that they are certain that one thing (the medication) causes the other (the birth defects). Consider this. In summertime, deaths due to drowning are high as are ice cream sales. This is an association between drowning and ice cream sales. But, is one causing the other? Is the sale of ice cream causing more people to drown? Probably not. Most likely, the connection is summertime – more people swim when it is warm outside and more people buy ice cream when it is warm outside.

This doesn’t mean that the antidepressant medications aren’t causing the birth defects, what it means is we don’t know for sure. An association was found to exist and on top of that, other previous studies have found the same thing.

If you are pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant, please speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about antidepressants.


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