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Motherisk News: Pregnant women shouldn't fear taking antidepressant drugs

Researchers have found taking antidepressants during pregnancy does not increase the chance of birth defects

TORONTO (March 31, 2009) - Taking an antidepressant during pregnancy has become a difficult and complicated process, mostly because of the conflicting information regarding safety. Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children?s (SickKids) Motherisk Program studied the link between antidepressants and birth defects. The research will be published in the April edition of The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

The SickKids Motherisk Program is a clinical research and teaching program which provides evidence-based information and guidance about the safety or risk to the developing fetus or infant, as a result of maternal exposure to drugs, chemicals, diseases, radiation or environmental agents. In this study, the researchers followed up on pregnant women, who called Motherisk and who had taken antidepressants prior to becoming pregnant, through to the first three months of pregnancy. The researchers investigated whether or not the babies had birth defects.

The scientists contacted 1,243 women and completed pregnancy outcomes. Out of these women, 928 had taken the antidepressant in the first trimester and delivered a live born infant. Collectively, the women had taken 11 different antidepressants: bupropion (113), citalopram (184), escitalopram(21), fluvoxamine(52) nefazodone(49), paroxetine(148), mirtazepine(68), fluoxetine(61), trazodone(17) venlafaxine(154), sertraline(61).

The rates of birth defects were compared to another group of 928 women, who were not exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy. The incidence of birth defects was similar in both groups, which was within the baseline of one to three per cent expected in the population. The researchers concluded the use of antidepressants in the first trimester of pregnancy is not associated with an increased risk birth defects. In addition, no individual antidepressant was associated with an increased risk of a specific malformation.

"We hope this information reassures pregnant women who require pharmacological treatment for depression, as well as their physicians who are faced with the complicated and sometimes difficult decision of whether to prescribe an antidepressant to a pregnant woman," says Adrienne Einarson, Assistant Director of The Motherisk Program at SickKids and lead author of the paper.

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The information on this website is not intended as a substitute for the advice and care of your doctor or other health-care provider. Always consult your doctor if you have any questions about exposures during pregnancy and before you take any medications.

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The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is a health-care, teaching and research centre dedicated exclusively to children; affiliated with the University of Toronto. For general inquires please call: 416-813-1500.

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