SSRIs are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors a type of antidepressant. In fact, these are some of the most popular antidepressants that have ever hit the market. Billions of dollars are made each year in the treatment of depression and other mental illnesses around the world.
SSRIs work because they allow more serotonin (a chemical in the brain) to circulate in the brain. SSRIs have proven to be quite successful for many people. But, they are not without risk.
In the United States alone in just one year, 2010, there were over 24 million generic Prozac prescriptions filled. That is not the only SRRI either. There are many more. Some of these were prescribed to pregnant women and therein lies an increased risk.
The use of these types of medications in women who are pregnant have been linked to serious birth defects. Some of the known links to SSRIs include persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN), anencephaly, cleft lip or cleft palate, other heart defects, and even respiratory distress.
These are all very serious birth defects which can lead to permanent life issues, multiple surgery needs, or even death. Babies and children who have to live with the effects of any of these birth issues can suffer for many years.
Here are some facts related to the use of SSRIs during pregnancy and its risk to the babies.
• Normal risk (without use of SSRIs) is around 7%.
• Risk if SSRIs taken in third trimester of pregnancy – 33%
• If SSRIs taken in 1st trimester this increases heart defect risk 60%
• That’s a 60% increased risk over normal risks
All of these risks are too great. Heart and respiratory issues are some of the leading causes of death in babies born with congenital defects. A complication caused or even potentially caused by medication should not occur. A stronger position taken on anything that could cause such birth defects could potentially help prevent them.
The FDA has a position on the use of SSRIs during pregnancy, but it still sits where you might call middle of the line. They have stated unequivocally that “There are no adequate and well-controlled studied of SSRIs in pregnant women.” That can be taken to mean many things, but the evidence has a voice.