Antidepressants, one of my favorite topics, are once again in the news. I”ve already explored the connection between antidepressants and a number of personality disorders, but the new studies take us in an entirely different direction and only add fuel to the fire. Two studies released today indicate that Infants born to women taking prescription antidepressants during the first trimester of their pregnancies have an increased risk of serious birth defects. At first glance, the results seem chilling. For example:
- The studies found that Paxil tripled the risk of a heart defect that reduces blood flow to the lungs.
- Zoloft was associated with a nearly sixfold increase of omphalocele in which intestines (or other abdominal organs) protrude from the naval.
- Antidepressant use was also linked to a doubling of the risk of three congenital problems: anenecephaly, a defect in which a large portion of the brain and skull is missing; craniosynostosis, in which connections among skull bones close prematurely; and intestinal defects.
Sounds bad, but in fact, the numbers were very small. Tripling the risk of heart defects still amounted to less than a 1% incidence. As for the sixfold increase in cases of omphalocele, we’re talking 1 in 5,000 births. Overall, as the researchers pointed out, we’re talking about defects that affect only about 1 in 2,500 births.
Does that mean we should not be concerned?
Not even close!
Aside from the fact that it is indeed a problem for any affected child, this is yet another strong indicator that pharmaceutical antidepressants have a significant physiological impact on the human body. These studies are merely the tip of the iceberg — the canary in the coal mine if you will. Remember, antidepressants have also been linked to an increased risk of suicide and violent behavior, heart disease, liver disease, and a whole host of other problems including seizures, nightmares, and sleepwalking.
Bottom line: more than ever, antidepressants should be considered the option of last choice when depressed. I’m not saying don’t use them. I’m just saying run through all the alternatives first.