Pregnant women who take antidepressants may increase the risk of birth defects on their children. Mothers who take fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil) are more likely to give birth to babies with heart problems, according to a study based on national data from Finland.
According to Dr. Heli Malm who headed the research, the small risks are not enough to conclude that these drugs are not safe for pregnant women. He noted that the possibilities are way too small, with only 105 out of 10,000 babies affected by fluoxetine and 31 out of 10,000 affected by paroxetine, to totally prohibit the use of these drugs specifically on pregnant women.
Yet these antidepressants, also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, should be used only when they are strongly advised by doctors and with corresponding clear indications on how to use them to avoid any unwanted side effects on unborn babies.
Data gathered by the researchers showed that the inborn problem related to fluoxetine is the isolated ventricular septal defect where a hole on either the left or right sides of the heart occur. Paroxetine brought about a right ventricular outflow tract defect which means that the flow of blood from the heart’s right chambers is abnormal.
But there are cases where women who suffer from depression are much safer when they have medications while they are pregnant. At the Teratology Information Service in the Hospital District of Helsinki, Finland, some doctors take greater consideration on mother’s health and well-being rather than in the very small possibility of babies being born with cardiac malformations.
Women who are under medication with antidepressants who plan to have children should consult health care providers on how they can continue taking these drugs while pregnant. There should be a way to both protect the unborn child from the side effects of antidepressants and the mothers who depend on these medications for their mental health and well-being.