A recent study shows that women who took certain prescription antidepressants during their pregnancies had a higher rate of birth defects in their newborns. Some of the medications included in this study were Paxil, Prozac and SSRIs.
The study focused on medications given early in the pregnancy, which created a higher risk for certain defects in the newborn. For instance, Prozac or fluoxetine was linked with anomalous pulmonary venous return. The study showed the risk for this condition more than doubled in mothers given the medication. Venlafaxine, which is Effexor, showed a higher risk for defects to the oral cleft, along with gastroschisis and neural tube defects as well as heart defects.
Prescriptions for antidepressants with pregnant women are more common than might be expected. The study showed that up to 8 percent of pregnant women have been prescribed these medications. Researchers accounted for the underlying mental health conditions when studying the effects of the medications. According to the researchers, the results from the study indicate that the birth defects may occur because of the medications, but further research must be conducted to gain a full assessment.
Evidence provided for the use of antidepressants indicates that the effects of the medications is less severe than the effects of untreated depression, according to some scientists. However, it is hoped that the study will trigger more discussions between the doctor and mother about the use of antidepressants during pregnancy.
Details of the Study
The study used data from 1997 to 2011 through the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. The researchers compared data from mothers who had babies with defects and those that had none. Those who participated in the study self-reported when they used the medications, how frequently, duration of use and when they stopped taking the medications.
Babies who had genetic disorders were eliminated from the study along with others who had abnormalities not related to the study. Adjustments were made for race, ethnicity, BMI, alcohol or tobacco use. When the study was completed, it showed that 30,630 mothers had a baby with a birth defect. Around five percent had used antidepressants early in their pregnancy.
Of those women with birth defects in their babies, they were more likely to be older and have had at least one other living child. They were more likely to be non-Hispanic white and to have used alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy.
The research was conducted by the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities in Atlanta along with specialists who came from JAMA Psychiatry. Over 40,000 participants were included in the study. Researchers recommend that doctors discuss these risks with their patients along with the benefits of taking the medications. It is important that patients and doctors make informed decisions together for the health of the mother and the infant.
More research is needed to determine future guidelines on these medications in use by pregnant women. However, it is important to be aware of the potential for health concerns when considering pregnancy or while pregnant.
Aspirin May Help Prevent Preterm Babies
The results from a recent clinical trial show that an aspirin a day may reduce the risk for pre-term births in first-time mothers. This could improve the chances for the baby’s survival and also lower the likelihood of birth issues from being born too soon.
Aspirin for Pregnant Women May Protect the Baby
The trial followed women from six countries, all lower income. The women were all first-time mothers, and they took a low-dose aspirin daily. Statistics show that it lowered the risk of preterm birth in the participants by 11 percent. The risk of delivery prior to the 34th week was reduced by 25 percent.
Experts say this could be important for mothers in those low-income countries because aspirin is inexpensive and easily obtained. Because it’s also safe for pregnant women, it could allow birth rates to rise in areas where preterm births are all too common.
The impact of the study for the US isn’t known yet, but experts believe it could help those who carry a higher risk of preterm births, such as black women. There is a 50 percent difference in the rate of preterm births for black women over white women, according to information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obstetricians already prescribe aspirin for pregnant women who suffer from preeclampsia, which has high blood pressure as one of the symptoms. Preterm birth is higher in women who suffer from this condition.
The trial used almost 12,000 participants who were located in Zambia, Kenya, India, Pakistan, Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The women were divided into two groups. One took the daily dose of aspirin while the other group took a placebo pill each day. These women continued taking the pill through the 36th week or until the baby was born.
Risks Associated with Preterm Births
Premature births are those considered to be before the 37th week while preterm births are those that occur before the 34th week. Not only can the medication reduce the risk of preterm births, it can prevent newborn deaths, which often occur with babies born too early.
Mothers can reduce their risk of preterm birth by taking several actions, including making sure they don’t suffer from anemia, stopping smoking and eating a diet high in omega-3s.
Babies who are born prematurely or preterm have an increased risk for health problems. Jaundice is one of the most common. While it’s generally not serious, it can cause bilirubin from the liver to build up in the brain, resulting in brain damage. Infections can occur with any newborn, but the preterm baby doesn’t have a fully developed immune system to fight them off. Lungs are also less developed, which can lead to breathing issues. They may need to be on a ventilator for the beginning of their life. Heart and brain issues can result from early birth.
Cerebral palsy is one of the conditions that can’t be cured after birth. It is caused by an injury or infection to the brain before or directly after birth. Problems with vision is another concern. Aspirin is a low-cost, easy treatment if it can prevent some of these concerns with preterm births.
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