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Unborn babies 'at risk' from antidepressants

24th June 2013

Some commonly used antidepressants could double the risk of a child being born with a heart defect if taken during early pregnancy.

Baby WardThis has lead Stephen Pilling, expert adviser to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), to suggest that taking SSRI antidepressants in early pregnancy is not worth the risk for those suffering from mild to moderate depression.

The risk of any baby being born with a heart defect is around 2%. Evidence suggests that if the mother took an SSRI in early pregnancy, the risk increases to around 4%.

Currently, guidelines warn specifically against taking the SSRI, paroxetine, in early pregnancy, but not SSRI antidepressants generally. Prof Pilling said:

"The available evidence suggests that there is a risk associated with the SSRIs. We make a quite a lot of effort really to discourage women from smoking or drinking even small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy, and yet we're perhaps not yet saying the same about antidepressant medication, which is going to be carrying similar - if not greater – risks."

The guidance will now be re-written to take in to account evidence that the SSRI antidepressants, as a group, are linked to heart defects.



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