The study of nearly 28,000 women found no increased risk for birth defects linked to citalopram (Celexa, Forest Laboratories, Inc), escitalopram (Lexapro, Forest Laboratories, Inc), and sertraline (Zoloft, Pfizer Inc) but confirmed two previously reported birth defects associated with fluoxetine (multiple brands) ― heart wall defects and craniosynostosis ― and five previously reported birth defects associated with paroxetine (multiple brands), including heart defects, anencephaly, and abdominal wall defects.
Although these birth defects occurred 2 to 3.5 times more frequently among infants of women taking paroxetine or fluoxetine early in pregnancy, the absolute risk is low, the researchers note.
Jennita Reefhuis, Owen Devine, Jan M Friedman, Carol Louik, Margaret A Honein, on behalf of the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Specific SSRIs and birth defects: bayesian analysis to interpret new data in the context of previous reports. BMJ 2015;351:h3190.
Objective To follow up on previously reported associations between periconceptional use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and specific birth defects using an expanded dataset from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study.
Design Bayesian analysis combining results from independent published analyses with data from a multicenter population based case-control study of birth defects.
Setting 10 centers in the United States.
Participants 17 952 mothers of infants with birth defects and 9857 mothers of infants without birth defects, identified through birth certificates or birth hospitals, with estimated dates of delivery between 1997 and 2009.
Exposures Citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, or sertraline use in the month before through the third month of pregnancy. Posterior odds ratio estimates were adjusted to account for maternal race/ethnicity, education, smoking, and prepregnancy obesity.
Main outcome measure 14 birth defects categories that had associations with SSRIs reported in the literature.
Results Sertraline was the most commonly reported SSRI, but none of the five previously reported birth defects associations with sertraline was confirmed. For nine previously reported associations between maternal SSRI use and birth defect in infants, findings were consistent with no association. High posterior odds ratios excluding the null value were observed for five birth defects with paroxetine (anencephaly 3.2, 95% credible interval 1.6 to 6.2; atrial septal defects 1.8, 1.1 to 3.0; right ventricular outflow tract obstruction defects 2.4, 1.4 to 3.9; gastroschisis 2.5, 1.2 to 4.8; and omphalocele 3.5, 1.3 to 8.0) and for two defects with fluoxetine (right ventricular outflow tract obstruction defects 2.0, 1.4 to 3.1 and craniosynostosis 1.9, 1.1 to 3.0).
Conclusions These data provide reassuring evidence for some SSRIs but suggest that some birth defects occur 2-3.5 times more frequently among the infants of women treated with paroxetine or fluoxetine early in pregnancy.