New research shows that babies born to women who took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) while they were pregnant may have an increased risk of congenital heart defects (that is, malformations that are present at birth and change the normal flow of blood through the heart). The SSRI class of drugs includes several commonly prescribed antidepressants, including those sold under the brand names Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil and Prozac.
The study, which examined data from 635,583 births that took place in Finland between 1996 and 2006, shows that, of a group of 10,000 infants whose mothers didn’t take SSRIs during their pregnancies, only seven developed right ventricular outflow tract defects, which affect the flow of blood from the heart’s right chambers to the rest of the body. In the group of 10,000 babies born to mothers who took a generic form of Paxil while they were pregnant, however, 31 suffered the defect. Moreover, 105 of 10,000 babies born to mothers on fluoxetine (brand name: Prozac) developed ventricular septal defects. That malformation was diagnosed in only 40 of 10,000 unexposed babies.
These results come less than two years after a study that examined nearly half a million Danish children born between 1996 and 2003 found there was a higher-than-normal incidence of heart defects in babies born to mothers who took generic forms of Zoloft and Celexa, the trade names for which are sertraline and citalopram, respectively. In that study, the results for which were released in September 2009, women using sertraline and citalopram proved twice as likely to give birth to children with septal heart defects–malformations in the wall separating the left and right sides of the heart.