Some reassuring news for women who take the antidepressant Paxil during the first trimester of pregnancy: It doesn’t appear to boost the risk of heart defects in the exposed baby.
A new study from the Motherisk Program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, followed more than 1,100 women in Canada, the U.S. and several other countries who had used Paxil during the early stages pregnancy, when the heart develops. They compared the data to outcomes in non-exposed babies and found no greater risk of heart defects among the babies whose mothers had used Paxil.
The findings are important, study author Adrienne Einarson said in a press release, because up to 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, which means women may decide to abruptly stop using Paxil if they find out they are pregnant. Einarson says given her findings, there’s no evidence they should. Furthermore, the study notes that depression during pregnancy is associated with a sixfold increase in the risk of postpartum depression.
Last summer another study on the use of SSRIs (the class of antidepressants which includes Paxil) during pregnancy found no increased risk for a number of birth defects. While it did find that some SSRIs carried increased risk, it noted that defects were “rare and the absolute risks are small.”