For many years, scientists have been trying to understand the effects of antidepressants on pregnant women, both for the mother and her unborn child. A new study from Swansea University suggests that expecting mothers who take a certain type of antidepressant, known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), have a small but significantly greater risk of stillbirth, or giving birth to a baby with major birth defects.

To identify these risks, researchers examined data from more than 500,000 infants in Wales, Norway and Denmark, Medical XPress reported. The team found that about 7 in 200 women who'd been prescribed SSRIs in the first trimester of pregnancy or three months before pregnancy experienced a stillbirth or delivered a baby with a major congenital anomaly — also known as a birth defect.

Meanwhile, these same results were apparent in 6 in 200 pregnancies of women not prescribed any SSRIs.

Read: Is It Safe To Take Antidepressants While Pregnant? Children May Have Increased Risk Of Speech Disorders

"To our knowledge, this is the first dose-response analysis that shows the link between SSRI doses and congenital anomalies and stillbirths. While this extra risk may seem small, in my view, the outcomes are as serious as they can be,” lead researcher Professor Sue Jordan said, according to Medical XPress.

"Women should not stop taking SSRIs without consulting their doctors, and we are not saying stop all medicines, but our message is that we want our health care professionals to be very mindful of this link and to take the appropriate action to ensure that women are given the right type of care before, during and after pregnancy to minimise the risks of congenital anomalies and stillbirths linked to SSRIs," she explained.

An October study from Columbia University also found that expecting mothers taking these prescriptions may have an increased risk of their children developing speech disorders, Medical Daily previously reported.

Source: Jordan S, Morris JK, Davies GI, Tucker D, Thayer DS, Luteijn JM, et al. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) Antidepressants in Pregnancy and Congenital Anomalies: Analysis of Linked Databases in Wales, Norway and Funen, Denmark. PLOS One. 2016.

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