It has been an ongoing study between 1997 and 2009, but researchers have finally answered the question of whether anti-depressants can cause birth defects or not. The answer is mixed, as while some medications to combat depression have shown signs of affecting pregnancy, others are completely harmless.
The question has been posed for quite a long time by both physicians and women planning on parenthood alike, as so far the answers have been uncertain with different opinions from various sources.
A total of 38,000 women participated in the study. Researchers took the numbers of babies who had presented birth defects and then compared them to the answers of their mothers when inquired whether they had taken anti-depressants during the first three months of pregnancy or one month before it.
The good news was that Zoloft (sertraline) has not been linked to causing birth defects, which is fantastic news for the 40% of women who use it. Along with it, medication such as Celexa or Lexapro were also found not guilty of the possibility to affect the health of newly born children.
However, not all were so fortunate. Another well-known and used anti-depressant, Prozac (fluoxetine) has been linked through analysis to birth defects such as heart wall defects or irregular skull shape. While Paxil (paroxetine) was discovered to also cause heart or skull irregularities, along with defects of the abdominal wall or brain.
The margins are still stated to be overall of low risk with a 2 to 3,5 times increase, but it is something to be considered by future mothers before getting pregnant.
Paxil increases the chance for malformations of the skull or brain from 2 to 7 in 10,000 births, and heart defects from 10 to 24 in 10,000 births.
Women are also advised not to abruptly stop medication as soon as they get pregnant without finding an alternate solution first. It can be of serious risk, one that might lead to suicide or high stress, which is famously unhealthy for a developing fetus that could cause premature birth or a dangerously low weight at birth.
Individual or group therapy could provide the proper replacement or switching medications, though all should be first discussed with a doctor or other appropriate types of medical professionals.
Researchers also wish to point out that being on anti-depressants should not be taken as an indication to discourage pregnancies. There are other medications available for future mothers who wish to take all measures to assure the good health of their child.