Citalopram – Pregnancy Antidepressant Related to Birth Defects

by | Jul 19, 2013

pregnant woman
A recent article in the health section of BBC News details the latest Citalopram side effect story from a UK mom who had taken the SSRI antidepressant during her pregnancy. 
Ann Wilson had been taking Citalopram (Celexa) for 4 years at the urging of her General Practitioner to handle her “anxiety” and was told it would be fine to continue it while having a baby – a serious error in medical judgment.
20 weeks into her pregnancy the doctors realized her son had a serious heart problem and would need immediate heart surgery when he was born. He survived this ordeal and is now 8 months old. But David was on life support machinery for the first five weeks of his life. He will need more open-heart surgery before he can begin school. His life expectancy is 40 years at maximum.
Mrs. Wilson commented “He’s got a lot of suffering ahead of him before anything else,” “We know that’s a certainty and that’s pretty awful.”
She also said “If somebody had given me the choice in pregnancy and said ‘there’s a risk of this’, I would have stopped taking those tablets in a flash.”
Up to one in six women of child bearing age are taking SSRI’s despite years of evidence that doing so puts their babies at risk
Professor Stephen Pilling, expert adviser to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, states that the SSRI’s such as Citalopram double the risk of heart defects and he wants the practice of prescribing these drugs to pregnant women to stop.
“We make a quite a lot of effort really to discourage women from smoking or drinking even small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy, and yet we’re perhaps not yet saying the same about antidepressant medication, which is going to be carrying similar – if not greater – risks.”
Here is the staggering list of known Citalopram side effects found in newborns whose mothers were taking the drug during their pregnancies:

  • ·        Excessive sleepiness and weight loss if breast fed by a mother taking the antidepressant
  • ·        Infant withdrawal symptoms at birth – jitters, irritability, constant high pitched crying, sleep disturbances, digestive problems, tremors, breathing problems, muscles going limp or ridgid
  • ·        A 6 times increase in persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN)- a serious newborn lung problem
  • ·        A 4 times increase in babies born with autism spectrum disorder
  • ·        Neural tube defects – these are serious congenital defects of the central nervous system leading to death shortly after birth or requiring surgery with permanent physical disabilities and shortened lifespan
  • Infant’s aorta artery can be too narrow, which results in uneven blood flow throughout the infant’s body. This may require medical intervention and/or surgery.
  • The left side of the infant’s heart does not develop fully, possibly resulting in sudden death. Baby may require a heart transplant to survive. Those who survive may have to undergo additional surgery as they age.
  • Narrowing of the pulmonary heart valve, resulting in decreased blood flow to the lungs
  • A hole can develop in the wall of the infant’s heart. This can cause improper blood circulation, which forces the heart to work harder than it should to pump blood. Baby may require open-heart surgery.
  • Structural heart defects that can result in blood not obtaining enough oxygen from the lungs before moving throughout the baby’s body.
  • The aorta and the pulmonary artery, which carry blood away from the heart, are reversed. It results in a lack of oxygen in the blood and often requires surgery to recover.
  • One or more of the sutures in an infant’s skull can harden prematurely, which causes a misshapen skull, intracranial pressure, and a lack of growth in the child’s head.
  • A cleft palate where the separate parts of the skull that form the roof of the mouth do not join. A cleft palate can cause problems with feeding, speech and breathing and can also cause ear infections and hearing loss.
  • A cleft lip – a facial defect affecting the infant’s upper lip, which can cause delays in speech and language
  • Club foot – the bones, joints, muscles and blood vessels in an infant’s leg and foot develop abnormally. This causes pain and problems with mobility. 

Despite this long list of Citalopram side effects for infants, the FDA stills feels the pregnancy category of Celexa should be ‘C.’ This means it does recommend the use of the drug during pregnancy “if the benefits outweigh the risks.” 
This cleverly leaves it up to doctors and mothers to decide what to do and allows the drug companies to continue with huge sales of SSRI antidepressants to mothers who are nervous about pregnancy and delivery. 
Celexa has been shown to cause birth defects in animals. Researchers can’t do trials where they deliberately give a pregnant woman a drug which may result in harm to her fetus in order to prove whether or not it’s harmful. Hence, because the FDA hasn’t banned such drugs during pregnancy, many doctors end up keeping the cash cow going by downplaying the risks and glorifying the benefits of taking the drugs. 
Unfortunately, the condescending illogic given on the Mayo Clinic website is widespread. They give this advice to mothers about to have a child:
“Depression treatment during pregnancy is essential. If you have untreated depression, you might not have the energy to take good care of yourself. You might not seek optimal prenatal care or eat the healthy foods your baby needs to thrive. You might turn to smoking or drinking alcohol. The result could be premature birth, low birth weight or other problems for the baby — and an increased risk of postpartum depression for you, as well as difficulty bonding with the baby.”
They sum things up with “If you stop taking antidepressants during pregnancy, you risk a depression relapse.”
Psychiatrists describe the risks to newborns as being very slight. The horrible nature and severity of Citalopram side effects, the resulting birth defects and infant deaths all say otherwise.           


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