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Study: Prozac, Paxil may increase risk for birth defects

Other anti-depressants Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro were not linked to birth defects in the study.

By Stephen Feller
Researchers suggest pregnant women be cautious when taking SSRIs for depression after linking two widely used types of the drug to birth defects. Photo: Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock
Researchers suggest pregnant women be cautious when taking SSRIs for depression after linking two widely used types of the drug to birth defects. Photo: Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock

ATLANTA, July 9 (UPI) -- The common antidepressants Prozac and Paxil were found in a new study to double the risk for birth defects if taken early in a pregnancy.

The same study also disproved previous studies which raised concerns about Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro having the potential to increase the same risks.

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"If you're planning to get pregnant, it really is important to talk with your health care provider to see if there are options and if you could choose a safer option among antidepressants," Jennita Reefhuis, lead investigator at the CDC's Centers for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, told NPR. "Of course, not all antidepressants work the same for everybody, so that's something that women need to consult with their health care provider about."

Researchers reviewed previous studies and analyzed data collected between 1997 and 2009 for the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. After accounting for the mother's ethnicity, education, smoking, and obesity at the start of pregnancy, all of which are considered risk factors for birth defects, the researchers looked for links between defects and the use of five selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, used for depression: Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro.

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Of the five, only Prozac and Paxil were found to have an association with birth defects. Mothers treated with either of them showed an increase in heart and abdominal wall defects, Paxil increased risk for brain and skull malformation and Prozac was linked to heart wall defects and irregular skull shape.

The study is published in the British Medical Journal.

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