Research — 06 April 2012

Use of antidepressants during pregnancy is linked with an increased risk of hypertension, above and beyond the risk attributed to depression or anxiety, research finds.

A study of about 13,200 pregnant women showed those on antidepressants faced a 53% increased risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension compared with women not exposed to the drugs.

The increased risk was most pronounced among women taking SSRIs, particularly paroxetine, with these patients being up to 80% more likely to develop pregnancy-induced hypertension.

The study authors said up to 14% of women used antidepressants during pregnancy, yet there was a “marked inadequacy” in knowledge on the drug’s effects on maternal outcomes.

“Overall [our] findings provide clinically relevant information on the risks of antidepressant use during pregnancy from the mother’s perspective,” they wrote in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

“Given that SSRIs may affect the peripheral handling of serotonin and that SNRIs have demonstrated noradrenergic effects, it is conceivable that antidepressants may be associated with pregnancy-induced hypertension.”

Commenting on the study, Professor Carmine Pariante, a professor of biological psychiatry at King’s College London in the UK, stressed pregnant women should not stop taking their antidepressant in response to the findings.

“Depression during pregnancy, if left untreated, has profound negative effects on both mothers and babies,” Professor Pariante said.

“For example, being depressed during pregnancy shortens the duration of the pregnancy and leads to smaller babies at birth, an effect equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes a day for the whole of the pregnancy.”

The researchers used data from the Quebec Pregnancy Registry and compared 1200 women who were diagnosed with pregnancy-induced hypertension – with or without pre-eclampsia – and no previous history of hypertension, with 12,000 matched controls.

As first appeared in Psychiatry Update


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