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Dramatic rise in pregnant women taking antidepressants

By Lilian Anekwe

GPs prescribing of antidepressants to pregnant women has jumped dramatically over the last decade and a half, researchers are warning.

The proportion of pregnancies in which antidepressant were prescribed jumped four-fold between 1992 and 2006, from 0.8% to 3.3%, an analysis by a team at University College London found.

Over the entire study period 4.8% of pregnant women received antidepressants at some stage during their pregnancy, with SSRIs accounting for four in every five prescriptions.

The researchers found the rate of discontinuation of antidepressant treatment was high, and less than one woman in five continued to take the drugs for the entire duration of pregnancy.

But they cautioned that the high rate of discontinuation carried its own risks, because of the possibility women might be left at risk of post-natal depression, which had to be balanced against the potential for birth defects.

Dr Irene Petersen, senior research fellow in primary care and population health at UCL and the study's lead researcher, said: ‘There has been a rise in prescription of antidepressants in women during pregnancy from 1992 to 2006.

‘But the proportion who discontinued receiving antidepressants during pregnancy was high and less than 20% continued through their whole pregnancy.'

The analysis of prescribing data, drawn from the pregnancies of 145,00 women included in The Health Improvement Network (THIN) primary care database, was presented at the Drug Utilisation and Research Group's annual conference in London last week.

GPs prescribing of antidepressants to pregnant women has jumped dramatically over the last decade and a half.

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