(NaturalNews) Although Big Pharma and mainstream medicine continue to push antidepressants, especially the type known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Paxil and Prozac, the documented risks and side effects of these drugs remain often ignored. While it's true the FDA finally acknowledged SSRIs are linked to suicide and violence in adolescents, other health problems such as a risk of sudden death in women (http://www.naturalnews.com/025811_death_antidepressants_depression.html) are rarely mentioned. Neither is the mounting evidence that SSRIs pose a serious threat to unborn babies.
Take the Mayo Clinic's official web site, for example, which claims: "depression is such a horrible disease that depression treatment during pregnancy is essential. If you have untreated depression, you might not have the energy to take good care of yourself. You might not seek optimal prenatal care or eat the healthy foods your baby needs to thrive. You might turn to smoking or drinking alcohol."
Notice all the "mights" in that plug for antidepressant use during pregnancy. The web site states the risk of pregnant women taking SSRIs causing drug-related harm to their babies is "low." What's shocking is that this information is currently up on the Mayo website when evidence has accumulated over the past year that antidepressants can, in fact, cause very serious and potentially deadly birth defects.
For example, a Finnish study published last July provided evidence that exposure to SSRIs in the first trimester of pregnancy increases the risk for major congenital anomalies, particularly heart problems. In fact, the use of fluoxetine (the generic name for Prozac) in the first three months of a pregnancy was linked to a two-fold risk for isolated ventricular sepal defects; another SSRI, paroxetine (Paxil), was associated with more than a four-fold increased risk for right ventricular outflow tract defects in newborn hearts.
If that's not shocking and worrisome enough, especially when you consider the CDC reports at least one in ten Americans are now taking SSRIs, including countless numbers of pregnant women. News about birth defects linked to these antidepressants just got worse. A new study just published online by the British Medical Journal reveals that women who take SSRIs during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children with a very dangerous and serious condition -- persistent pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs).
SSRIs can be a serious threat to the health of babies
Persistent pulmonary hypertension is caused by an increase in blood pressure in the lungs. That, in turn, leads to shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties. This is no minor problem, either, but a severe disease with strong links to heart failure.
The new study, conducted by scientists at the Center for Pharmacoepidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, investigated 1.6 million births between 1996 and 2007 in five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. In all, a total of 1,618,255 single births were included in the study.
The researchers discovered that 11,000 of the mothers had filled prescriptions for anti-depressants in late pregnancy and approximately 17,000 more had taken the drugs in early pregnancy. An additional 54,184 mothers in the study were found to have previously been given a psychiatric diagnosis but these women did not take any antidepressant medication during their pregnancies.
Babies born to the women in the study were assessed after 231 days (33 weeks). The results? Taking SSRIs appeared to clearly raise the risk of pulmonary persistent hypertension. In all, the new study found three babies with pulmonary persistent hypertension per 1000 women taking SSRIs in early pregnancy. That number doubled if the anti-depressants were taken in late pregnancy.
The risk was not enormous. But pulmonary persistent hypertension in a baby is a very serious disease and any increase in cases at all is extremely worrisome, especially when it could be prevented. After all, taking SSRIs is not something a woman absolutely has to do. Exercise, sound nutrition, stress relief, yoga and a host of other natural approaches have been documented to help relieve depression.
In an accompanying editorial, researchers from the Motherisk Program Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the School of Pharmacy at the University of Oslo concluded that mothers who take SSRIs in late pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children with persistent pulmonary hypertension.
In a media release about the new study, Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH, from the University of California, San Diego, who has also studied potential risks of SSRI use in pregnancy, said the paper confirms results of "several other papers showing small increased risks for selected specific birth defects, although not all previous studies have shown a risk."