Popular antidepressants Paxil, Prozac linked to birth defects

Posted at 11:44 AM, Jul 09, 2015

Taking antidepressants Prozac or Paxil may increase the risk of some birth defects, according to a study published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.

When taken early in pregnancy, Paxil (paroxetine) was linked to more defects of the heart, abdominal wall, brain and skull. Prozac (fluoxetine) was linked to heart wall defects and irregular skull shape.

Birth defect rates more than doubled in some cases. However, the overall risk was still low, the authors wrote. The risk of a heart defect while taking Paxil is 24 cases for every 10,000 pregnancies. Without Paxil, the risk is 10 cases per 10,000, the study said.

The study examined SSRI antidepressant use in about 28,000 pregnancies. SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, are a popular class of antidepressants.

Other SSRIs did not affect birth defect risk: Zoloft (sertraline), the most popular antidepressant for pregnant women, Celexa (citalopram) and Lexapro (escitalopram).

"Continued scrutiny of the association between SSRIs and birth defects is warranted," the authors wrote, "and additional studies of specific SSRI treatments during pregnancy are needed to enable women and their healthcare providers to make more informed decisions about treatment."

Nearly 1 in 10 women ages 18 to 39 take antidepressants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s three times the rate of men the same age.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.