Some Antidepressants May Pose Increased Risk Of Birth Defects

Capsules of fluoxetine, the chemical name for the popular antidepressant Prozac, are sorted at a packaging line at Barr Laboratories in Forest, Va., Tuesday, July 31, 2001. The line can bottle up to 3 million 20 mg capsules of the drug in a 24-hour day. U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker entered her final ruling in a Prozac patent infringement case on July 27 in Indianapolis, determining that Eli Lilly and Co.'s patent on the drug was invalid. Barr Laboratories is launching its fluoxetine on Thursday, Aug. 2, and will be shipping it across the country. (AP Photo/The News & Advance, R. David Duncan III)
Capsules of fluoxetine, the chemical name for the popular antidepressant Prozac, are sorted at a packaging line at Barr Laboratories in Forest, Va., Tuesday, July 31, 2001. The line can bottle up to 3 million 20 mg capsules of the drug in a 24-hour day. U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker entered her final ruling in a Prozac patent infringement case on July 27 in Indianapolis, determining that Eli Lilly and Co.'s patent on the drug was invalid. Barr Laboratories is launching its fluoxetine on Thursday, Aug. 2, and will be shipping it across the country. (AP Photo/The News & Advance, R. David Duncan III)
Capsules of fluoxetine, the chemical name for the popular antidepressant Prozac, are sorted at a packaging line at Barr Laboratories in Forest, Va., Tuesday, July 31, 2001. (AP Photo/The News & Advance, R. David Duncan III)

(NPR) – Some antidepressants may increase the risk of birth defects if taken early in pregnancy, while others don’t seem to pose the same risks, a study finds.

The question of whether antidepressants can cause birth defects has been debated for years, and studies have been all over the map. That makes it hard for women and their doctors to make decisions on managing depression during pregnancy.

To try to untangle the question, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed federal data on more than 38,000 women who gave birth between 1997 and 2009. They looked at the number of birth defects among babies and asked women whether they took any antidepressants in the month before getting pregnant or during the first three months of pregnancy.

The study, published Wednesday in The BMJ, found no association between the most commonly used antidepressant, sertraline (Zoloft), and birth defects. Forty percent of the women who took antidepressants took sertraline.

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