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SSRI antidepressants raise risk of premature birth

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. was Director of Mental Help Net from 1999 to 2011. Dr. Dombeck received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1995 ...Read More

A new report in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology suggests that women who use SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy are placing themselves at increased risk for stillborn children (dead at birth), premature birth, or other birth complications. The health records of 972 Canadian women were examined to produce these findings. The risk for stillbirth was doubled in women who used SSRIs, as was the chance that babies were born low-birth-weight or premature. Baby seizure risk (as in epilepsy) was also increased. The Guardian has a nice summary of the article here.

It would be a very good idea for any women out there who are on SSRIs currently and who are contemplating getting pregnant, or who are pregant currently, to see their doctors for advice on whether to continue their medication regime. While it may seem like the right idea to simply get off such medications, this will not always be the right thing to do. Medications are best come off of slowly in many cases, for one thing – precipitous withdrawal may lead to complications in some cases. Secondly, depression is a serious condition for many women, and they risk other serious health complications (e.g., suicide, loss of ability to work or function socially) if they do go off a medication routine that is working for them. There are, of course, completely drug-free alternative treatments for depression, such as cognitive therapy or interpersonal therapy for depression. However, again, these treatments are not appropriate for everyone, and a personal doctor should be consulted whenever changes in treatment are contemplated.

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