SSRI’s or Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor’s are used as anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs. They’re often regarded as about the safest drugs we have, since it’s almost impossible to overdose on them and the negative long term health effects seem to be negligible. However, there has been some concern expressed about their safety during pregnancy.
A number of studies have been conducted on the use of various SSRI drugs during various stages of pregnancy and breast feeding. The majority of the studies done have not found any harmful effects of the use of SSRI’s on developing fetuses or infants who breastfeed. While these drugs do pass through the placenta, the concentration of exposure is at least two thirds less for the developing fetus than for the mother.
However, one study, done in 2007, did find a slight increase in a few birth defects in mothers who received relatively high doses of certain SSRI medications during the first trimester of their pregnancy. The study did not find any significant increase in overall odds of most birth defects, but did find an increase in a few birth defects, such as certain cardiac defects. Still, the total risk remains tiny with or without SSRI’s, and while the increase was greater than the statistical error of the study, confounding factors cannot be ruled out, such as the possibility that depressed mothers might have less healthy babies for a variety of reasons.
The reception of the study in the medical community was generally more one of reassurance than concern. While it indicated that there was at least a possibility that a few narrow birth defects might possibly be associated with SSRI’s, the overall risk is very low. Interestingly, the study did not find that these risks increased for all types of SSRI drugs. Zoloft and Paxil did appear to produce slight increases in some birth defects, but Prozac, Lexapro and other antidepressants did not produce any detectable increase in any birth defects.
Given that the risks are not completely proven and appear to be extremely low, the Mayo Clinic says the following about the use of antidepressants during pregnancy:
Overall, the risk of birth defects and other problems for babies of mothers who take antidepressants during pregnancy is low. Still, few medications have been proved safe without question during pregnancy and some types of antidepressants have been associated with health problems in babies.
It should also be noted that these slight increases in risk have been speculated about since before the 2007 study, and most women who received the drugs during pregnancy would have been told (or should have been told) by their doctor that the possibility existed that there could be a small increase in some birth defects.
Now enter the lawyers. Lets say, you happen to have had a child with a common and minor birth defect, like a cleft lip or a club foot, both of which are fairly common and correctable. You might have just put your child’s foot in a brace or taken them for minor plastic surgery and then thought nothing of it. Well, if you happen to have been taking an anti-depressent, there are lawyers out there who want to be sure you don’t just go on with your life without giving them a crack at the drug companies. And they’re paying for advertising to make sure you know.
These are just two of the many ads now being run by law firms hoping to get a cut of a settlement.
Also, to be clear: Most of the conditions listed in the above ad have never been associated with Paxil or Zoloft, and it’s pure speculation that they would have any effect on those conditions simply because they MAY have effects on other conditions. Also, most of the drugs listed have, despite extensive study, never been linked to ANY birth defect. They are in the same class as the drugs Paxil and Zoloft, but it is pure speculation to think that because they have a similar mechanism of action that they MIGHT have an effect, even despite the fact that all studies to date have shown they do not and that the drugs that they are related to have not been linked to the conditions listed.
Worse still, there are several ads now running (sorry I could not find a video) that are saying the same thing about autistic children, despite there being not a shred of evidence that SSRI’s during pregnancy would have an impact on the probability of a child developing autism. It seems to be some kind of assumption that if some do possibly increase the risk of some birth defects then they must all cause autism.
Sorry, to say “I hate lawyers” is a rather rash and harsh statement, but this stuff really makes me sick.
This entry was posted on Sunday, December 18th, 2011 at 2:58 am and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, media, Misc. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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