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Two common anti-depressants ‘increase birth defect risk’, study finds

Babies born to women taking some commonly prescribed anti-depressants are at risk of being born with birth defects, new research has found.

The report, published in the BMJ, has suggested that birth defects occur 2-3.5 times more frequently among infants of mothers treated with two of the most commonly used selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), paroxetine and fluoxetine, when taken in early pregnancy.

The findings confirmed previous observations about the two drugs, including linking fluoxetine to heart wall issues and irregular skull shape, and paroxetine to heart defects, problems with brain and skull formation and abdominal wall defects.

The US study, which surveyed 18,000 mothers of babies with birth defects and 10,000 mothers of babies born without birth defects between 1997 and 2009, also looked at sertraline, citalopram and escitalopram, finding no significant association with birth defects.

The report said: ‘Some birth defects occur 2-3.5 times more frequently among the infants of women treated with paroxetine or fluoxetine early in pregnancy… No association with maternal use of citalopram or escitalopram monotherapy was found, except for a marginal association between citalopram and neural tube defects.

‘For sertraline, the most commonly used SSRI in our study, the findings for all five defects assessed were not significant.’

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