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Childhood Obesity, Diabetes Added to List of Potential SSRI Pregnancy Side Effects

SSRI pregnancy side effectsA new study has revealed another side effect risk associated with the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy. Researchers at McMaster University have discovered that use of SSRIs during pregnancy could increase the risk of childhood diabetes and obesity.

This new finding adds to a growing list of possible SSRI pregnancy side effects that includes heart defects, brain abnormalities and limb deformities.

Researchers link SSRIs to fatty livers

Scientists used an animal model to study whether use of Prozac during pregnancy could increase inflammation of the liver and fat accumulation in the unborn offspring. They found that use of the drug did increase both fat and inflammation of the liver, which lead to weight gain and a possible diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Although the findings were based on an animal study, researchers are confident that same risk will apply to human subjects.

“We have demonstrated for the first time in an animal model that maternal use of a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, resulted in increased fat accumulation and inflammation in the liver of the adult offspring, raising new concerns about the long-term metabolic complications in children born to women who take SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy,” Nicole de Long, author of the study, was quoted as saying at Sci Guru.

Researchers presented their findings at the joint meeting of The Endocrine Society and International Society of Endocrinology on June 22. Although researchers found a link between SSRI use and diabetes and obesity, they were quick to point out that women should not stop taking antidepressant medication completely during pregnancy. However, the findings could alert medical providers to high-risk groups that might require additional monitoring or intervention efforts to prevent those conditions.

SSRI pregnancy side effects

An estimated 20 percent of pregnant women in the United States take SSRIs during pregnancy to treat depression and other mental disorders. The drugs are sold under commercial names like Prozac and Zoloft. However, increasing reports of SSRI pregnancy side effects have concerned both women and their healthcare providers in recent years. In 2011, the FDA reported that SSRI use during pregnancy could increase the risk of a serious condition in newborns known as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn or PPHN.

Studies have also shown a link between SSRI use and a variety of heart defects. Some of these defects can be fatal to a newborn, while others may require invasive surgical procedures while the child is still quite young. SSRIs have also been associated with limb deformities like club foot and cranial abnormalities like craniosynotostosis.

Some women have now filed lawsuits against manufacturers of Zoloft and Paxil on behalf of their children born with birth defects. These women allege the manufacturers did not provide sufficient warning about the dangers of their drugs during pregnancy. The number of lawsuits involving SSRI use during pregnancy has grown considerably in recent years, as more women learn of the possible link between these drugs and some types of birth defects.

Zoloft lawsuits against Pfizer have now been coordinated into multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Multidistrict litigation may be established for a growing number of similar lawsuits in order to streamline early trial proceedings. More than 250 plaintiffs are now joined in this Pennsylvania litigation, which is being overseen by Judge Cynthia M. Rufe.

  1. FDA, Public Health Advisory: Treatment Challenges of Depression in Pregnancy and the Possibility of Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension in Newborns,

  2. Medical Daily, Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy may Increase Risk of Diabetes, Obesity in Offspring,

  3. Sci Guru, Maternal Use of Antidepressants in Pregnancy and Childhood Obesity: Are They Linked?

  4. U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, MDL No. 2342: Zoloft Products Liability Litigation,