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CNS Drugs. 2009;23(6):493-509. doi: 10.2165/00023210-200923060-00004.

Safety of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in pregnancy.

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  • 1Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are among the most commonly used medications, with a prescription frequency of 2.3% in pregnant women. Although most babies born to women who take SSRIs during pregnancy are normal, there is accumulating evidence that maternal SSRI treatment during pregnancy may cause adverse reproductive outcomes. Maternal SSRI treatment during the first trimester has been implicated in increased risks of birth defects, specifically cardiac abnormalities, in the infant, whereas third-trimester treatment has been linked to various neonatal complications, including symptoms of neonatal withdrawal and toxicity, prematurity, low birth weight and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn. Although data on neurobehavioural and long-term cognitive problems among children of women who were treated with SSRIs during pregnancy remain limited, the possibility of such functional abnormalities is an additional concern. On the other hand, untreated maternal depression also carries serious risks for both the mother and the baby, and SSRIs are one of the best available treatments. Thus, pregnant women who require treatment for depression and their physicians often face a difficult choice regarding the use of SSRIs.

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