Dr Peter Breggin writes:
On June 28, 2007 more than 250 headlines around the world promised that SSRI antidepressants (such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and Celexa) are safe for pregnant mothers and their developing babies. “Mom’s Antidepressant Use Poses Little Danger to Baby,” heralded the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Antidepressants pose low birth defect risk,” claimed Boston Globe. The New York Times ran with the Associated Press’s article titled “Antidepressants Not Big Risk for Defects.” The Wall Street Journal’s coverage was titled “Reassurance on Antidepressants in Pregnancy.” The day before the news stories broke, the Centers for Disease Control spun the news in advance with a press release headlined, “New Study Finds Few Risks of Birth Defects from Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy” (CDC Division of Media, 2007).
The headlines and the CDC press release were incredibly misleading. In the CDC study, several severe birth defects were doubled or nearly tripled in frequency when SSRIs were taken in the first trimester. This combined with the other known toxic effects of SSRIs, including brain damage and dysfunction, make these drugs contraindicated in pregnancy.
In the abstract to the report, the CDC study claimed that it found no association between SSRI use in pregnancy and heart defects in neonates. However, that’s not true. The study found that obese women who did not use SSRIs had an increased risk with heart defects and that obese women who did use SSRIs had an even greater risk of neonatal heart defects with an adjusted odds ratio of 5.9 (95% CI, 2.4-14.3)!
The second study by Carol Louik and her colleagues did not find an overall correlation between SSRI use and the two defects, craniosynostosis and omphalocele. It did however find an association between sertraline (Zoloft) and both omphalocele and septal defects in the heart, and between paroxetine (Paxil) and right ventricular outflow tract obstruction defects of the heart.
Louik made many statements to the press reassuring people, in effect, not to worry. She made no mention of other birth defects and neonatal problems associated with SSRI antidepressants. Her study had funding from two pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Paxil (Seward, 2007), one of the most implicated antidepressants in regard to birth defects. The company’s money was well spent. Thanks in part to Louik’s highly publicized comments, headlines throughout the country played down the risk.
Women and their doctors who only catch the headlines created by these studies are being grossly misled. SSRIs should never be used during pregnancy.
Drug advocates, including the CDC, justify the use of SSRIs during pregnancy on the basis that depression has its own hazards. But these hazards pale in comparison to the upheaval that will befall new mothers, fathers and the extended families of the children who are born with profound birth defects.
The worst hazards of depression in pregnancy are those of suicidality and, very rarely, infanticide. But the SSRIs are implicated in increasing the risks of both suicide and violence (Breggin, 2001, 2003; Breggin and Breggin, 1994). In fact, the new FDA labels for antidepressants specifically warn about SSRI-induced suicidality in youth and in young adults, the very group most likely to become pregnant (Food and Drug Administration, 2007). Now we know that the SSRIs not only threaten to cause the death of the mother through suicide but the death of the child as well through lethal birth defects.
The CDC and other pro-drug authorities urge pregnant mothers to speak with their doctors about the risk/benefit ratio of taking SSRI antidepressants. But doctors will have read the headlines inspired by the CDC, and imagine there is little risk. Furthermore, few physicians realize that meta-analyses have shown that antidepressants work no better than placebo at lifting depression (Kirsch et al., 2002; Moncrieff and Kirsch, 2005). The risk/benefit ration weighs a placebo effect against increased parental suicide and violence, and babies with congenital defects, babies undergoing withdrawal reactions, and babies whose brains have been forever changed by being soaked in SSRIs during their development.
No one can or should blame the parents. But when the mother has been taking an SSRI antidepressant, increasing her risk by 240%, we must hold responsible the doctor who prescribed it, the drug company who manufactured and falsely promoted it, and the medical establishment that covers up and minimizes the drastic hazards associated with these toxic chemicals, including risks to adults, children and the unborn.
Read Dr Breggin’s entire article here at the Huffington Post.
And to learn more about the real life effects that Seroxat can have on babies, then you need look no further than Manie’s Story.