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Pitt Study of Pregnant Women Shows Antidepressants, Depression May Raise Risk of Premature Birth

Pregnant women who had untreated major depression in all three trimesters of pregnancy, as well as those who took certain antidepressants, had preterm birth rates exceeding 20 percent, according to a study by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers published in the March issue of American Journal of Psychiatry. Approximately 10-to-20 percent of women struggle with symptoms of major depression during their pregnancies, but treating it can be complicated. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants are usually the first line of depression treatment, but can lead to unwanted outcomes such as preterm births if used continuously throughout pregnancy, the findings suggest.

"It is well-known that the prevalence of depression in women is highest during the childbearing years, and treating the symptoms with SSRIs is a common medical therapy," said Katherine L. Wisner, M.D., M.S., director of the Women's Behavioral HealthCARE program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, associate investigator at Magee-Womens Research Institute, and professor of psychiatry, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "However, given the similarity in outcomes we found for continuous SSRI treatment and continuous depression, it is possible that underlying depressive disorder is a factor in preterm birth among women taking SSRIs."

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