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SSRI antidepressants linked to birth defects

Some antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) taken during early pregnancy may be associated with an increased risk of birth defects, research suggests.

Previous studies reached conflicting conclusions, leading to uncertainty around the safety of antidepressant use during pregnancy.

The data analysis included 17,952 mothers of infants with birth defects and 9,857 mothers of infants without birth defects, born between 1997 and 2009, and was published in The BMJ this week.

“Meanwhile, the current analysis provides guidance to the safest treatment options during early pregnancy to minimise the risk of major birth defects, while providing adequate treatment of maternal depression,” the authors, based in the USA and Canada said.

The authors stress that if these associations are causal, the risks for these birth defects are still low, and are calling for further studies “to enable women and their healthcare providers to make more informed decisions about treatment”.