Pregnant Women and Antidepressants: Heart Defect Risks for Newborns

September 26, 2009

A new study reveals a possible consequence pregnant women’s use of antidepressants; heart defect risks in newborns. The findings were just published in the British Journal of Medicine.


Antidepressants, as they are commonly known are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Some have familiar trade names such as Prozac.

According to The Telegraph, which quotes from the study, researchers compared 1,370 babies born to mothers who took antidepressants during pregnancy, and compared them to more than 400,000 children whose mothers did not take the drugs.

Conclusions from the research reveal that newborns whose mothers took the antidepressants in the first trimester of pregnancy were 80 per cent more likely to be born with a defect in their septum, which is the wall dividing the left and right sides of the heart. The severity of the defect ranges from problems with blood vessels to a hole in the heart.

Researchers further concluded as to the use of antidepressants and heart defect risks that if the mother took two or more different kinds of the drugs in the first trimester the increased risk was fourfold.

The results revealed that 0.5 per cent of babies born to mothers who did not take antidepressants did not have a defect in the septum, whereas 0.9 per cent of babies whose mothers did take the medication had the defect. If the mother took more than one type of the drugs during the first three months of pregnancy the percentage was higher; 2.1 per cent.

Reuters reveals that the the study’s co-author Dr. Lars Henning Pedersen, of Aarhus University in Denmark, told them that these findings surprised him and his colleagues. The news organization goes on to quote a statement from Dr. Christina Chambers, of the University of California, San Diego, which says that doctors and patients:

“…need to balance the small risks associated with SSRIs against those associated with undertreatment or no treatment.”

As noted, these new findings were published in the British Medical Journal on antidepressants and heart defect risks for newborns.


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One Response to “Pregnant Women and Antidepressants: Heart Defect Risks for Newborns”

  1. 1
    Dr. Shosh Says:

    Whether or not to take an antidepressant during pregnancy is not an easy decision. But we know one thing for sure – depression itself can cause serious problems for the mother and the developing baby, so treatment of some kind is essential. The small but possible risk of a heart defect in the baby when mom is taking an SSRI during the first trimester needs to be weighed against her depression if the medication is not taken. There is no cookie-cutter answer for all women. This decision should be made individually by each woman with the help of a psychiatrist who has the clinical expertise in this specialized field. And no matter what course of action is taken – medication or natural, alternative methods of treatment – therapy should always be part of the wellness plan.

    Dr. Shosh

    Author, Pregnant on Prozac and Postpartum Depression For Dummies