6 Birth defects from antidepressants


July 8

Antidepressants such as Prozac are linked to a small risk of birth defects when taken by pregnant women, according to new research.

There have been claims in recent years that women taking some of the modern antidepressants of the class known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have had babies with birth defects. A team of researchers based in the US and Canada have investigated data on nearly 18,000 women whose children were born with problems – including brain and skull malformations and heart defects – to try to establish whether antidepressants might be partly to blame. They compared the data with information on nearly 10,000 women whose babies were born without defects.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal (pdf) , finds that there is a link with certain antidepressants in this class, but not with all of them. It also finds that even if the SSRIs are to blame, the risk is low. “Although our analysis strongly supports the validity of the associations that were observed, the increase in the absolute risks, if the associations are causal, is small,” the researchers write.

But, they say, women should know about the link so that they can make an informed choice if they are or want to become pregnant. SSRIs are increasingly used by women of reproductive age.

The researchers were led by Jennita Reefhuis from the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, part of the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data on the babies with heart defects and their mothers came from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, which has recorded cases in 10 US states. The babies were born between October 1997 and December 2009.

Specific SSRIs and birth defects

Researchers looked for any use of five SSRI drugs at least once from the month before women became pregnant through to the third month of their pregnancy. The drugs were: citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).

Sertraline was the SSRI most commonly taken. Although there have been five reports of birth defects in babies born to women on sertraline in the past, none of them was confirmed in this study. The researchers say this is reassuring, because 40% of the women who had taken an SSRI in pregnancy were taking sertraline.

But the study found a link between two types of birth defect which had previously been associated with fluoxetine (Prozac) – heart wall defects and irregular skull shape (craniosynostosis).

They also found an association between paroxetine (Paxil) and five types of defect, including heart defects, problems with brain and skull formation (anencephaly), and abdominal wall defects.

The risks are low, the researchers say. The absolute risks in the children of women who are treated with paroxetine early in pregnancy, for instance, would increase for anencephaly from two per 10,000 to seven per 10,000, and for one of the heart defects from 10 per 10,000 to 24 per 10,000.

“Continued scrutiny of the association between SSRIs and birth defects is warranted,” they say, “and additional studies of specific SSRI treatments during pregnancy are needed to enable women and their healthcare providers to make more informed decisions about treatment.”

“Meanwhile, the current analysis provides guidance to the safest treatment options during early pregnancy to minimise the risk of major birth defects, while providing adequate treatment of maternal depression,” they conclude

Ann Wills comments: both of these drugs contain fluoride.)




The recent spate of upset tummies could be caused by viruses & bacteria from sewage getting into the public water supply.  Scientists have discovered that such contaminants get sucked into the water supply when there’s a leak in the pipes.  Many cases of upset tummy could be caused by the water we drink, not food we’ve eaten, says Prof. Joby Boxall an engineer at Sheffield Uni.  Although water regulators say that 99% of our water is fit to drink the researchers discovered that groundwater around water pipes can easily enter the public water supply when the pressure drops after a leak – & groundwater often contains viruses & bacteria from sewage.  Fellow researcher Dr Richard Collins said the contaminants would be at very low levels by the time they reach our taps, but they would still fail safety tests & could certainly be enough to cause an upset tummy.

ASCELibrary (online only), Water Distribution Systems Analysis 2010: 585-94.


Hydraulic fracturing releases high levels of pollutants that have been linked to certain cancers & respiratory problems, such as asthma.  The technique where high-pressure water is aimed at shale rock to extract the gas inside, releases high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) into the air, say researchers at Oregon State Uni.  They had been approached by residents in Carroll County, Ohio, where the residents were concerned about the impact of drilling on their health.  Those closest to the wells had the highest PAHs & even the lowest levels were 10 x higher than in Michigan, where there is no fracking.  All these levels are considered unsafe by US Environmental Protection Agency.   EnvironSciTechnol, 2015; 49:5203-10.



Backed up by leading dentists, the consumer group “Which?” says that a toothpaste with an optimum fluoride content of 1,450ppm will keep teeth healthy.   “Which?” claim this is just as good as toothpastes which contain added potassium nitrate to stop sensitivity & calcium to strengthen the enamel & baking soda to neutralise acid.  Colgate’s Triple Action costs 99p for 100ml at Tesco.  But Arm & Hammer who produce toothpaste with calcium & baking soda disagree.   If you want to, maybe email: letters@dailymail.co.uk  about fluorosis etc?



50 common chemicals used in plastics, cosmetics & insecticides could cause cancer, scientists warned yesterday. They include Bisphenol A (BPA) commonly used in plastic food containers & the lining of metal food cans.  Triclosan antibacterial agent used in handwashes, some toothpastes & soaps etc could be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) along with pesticide Rotenone & Paraquat herbicide.  A taskforce of almost 200 scientists from 28 countries took nearly 3 years to investigate 85 chemicals not previously thought to cause cancer.   The effects were even found at low levels of exposure.  Prof William Bisson of Oregan State University in US said that the chemicals may act together to increase cancer activity & disrupt DNA repair.   He said “For example, EDTA, a metal binding compound used in manufacturing & medicine, interferes with the body’s repair of damaged genes.  EDTA doesn’t cause genetic mutations itself but if you’re exposed to it along with some substance that is mutagenic it enhances the effect because it disrupts DNA repair, a key layer of cancer defence.”  This work is part of the Halifax Project sponsored by the Canadian non-profit organisation “Getting to Know Cancer.” Published in “Carcinogenisis” journal.

(My comment:  Full article in www.ScienceDaily.com or Google it.)



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