Study links drugs, birth troubles

Thu, April 6, 2006


Taking certain antidepressants during pregnancy may increase the risk of premature delivery, underweight babies, stillbirths and seizures in newborns.

A study led by researchers at the Ottawa Health Research Institute has found pregnant women who took selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, had a higher incidence of adverse birth outcomes compared with women who weren't taking the drugs while pregnant.

But Dr. Mark Walker, a high-risk obstetrician and senior author of the study, stressed that researchers found only a correlation, not proof that antidepressants caused the problems.

Using 1990-2000 health records from Saskatchewan, Walker's team compared 972 pregnant women taking SSRIs and a control group of almost 3,900 women who were not on the medications during pregnancy. Women in the two groups were matched for age, the type of hospital where they gave birth, socioeconomic status and other factors.

Said Walker:"We found there was almost a doubling in the increase" of low birth-weight infants -- 9% in the SSRI group versus 5% in the control group.

Women on SSRIs were more likely to have a pre-term birth -- almost 20% versus 12% in the control group.

Stillbirths were about twice as common, at 1% versus 0.4% among controls.