ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
When Healing Becomes a Commodity
Maggots as Good as Gel in Leg Ulcer Treatments
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Drinking Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Using a Balloon to Repair a Broken Back
Sea Worm Inspires Novel Bone Glue
CANCER
Sharing Cancer Info May Be Empowering
Breast Self-Exam Rates Go Up With Counseling
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
MRSA Infections Spreading to Kids in Community
3 Steps Might Help Stop MRSA's Spread
Tainted China Formula Caused High Rate of Kidney Stones in Kids
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
Walk 100 Steps a Minute for 'Moderate' Exercise
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
DENTAL, ORAL
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
DIABETES
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Drug May Not Help Diabetes-Related Eye Damage
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
'Soda Tax' Wins Health Experts' Support
Marinades Help Keep Grilled Meat Safe
Breakfast Eggs Keep Folks on Diet
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Ozone Pollution Taking Toll on American Lives
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
EYE CARE, VISION
Retinal Gene Is Linked to Childhood Blindness
High Temps Degrade Contact Lens Solution: Study
When Gauging Age, the Eyes Have It
FITNESS
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Have Fun This Summer, But DO Be Careful
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
When Clocks Change, Body May Need Time to Adjust
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Psychiatric Drugs Might Raise Cardiac Death Risk
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Coconut Oil May Help Fight Childhood Pneumonia
Boosting Kids' Stroke IQ May Save Lives
Teen Internet Addicts More Likely to Self-Harm: Study
MEN'S HEALTH
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
Musicians' Brains Tuned to Emotions in Sound
17 Ways to Create the Perfect Workday
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
SENIORS
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
As You Age, Better Health Means Better Sex
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
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Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants

(HealthDay News) -- Women who take certain antidepressants during the first three months of pregnancy may have a slightly increased risk of giving birth to babies with heart defects.

Septal heart defects -- malformations in the wall separating the right side of the heart from the left -- were more common among women taking antidepressants in the first trimester, Danish researchers found. Some of these heart defects resolve on their own, while others require surgery.

The risks were seen in sertraline (trade names Zoloft and Lustral) and in citalopram (Celexa), both of which belong to the class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Women who took more than one SSRI early in their pregnancy had a fourfold higher risk of having babies with this problem, said the authors of a study appearing online Sept. 24 in BMJ.

Still, the authors said the absolute risk is relatively low: 246 women would have to take such medication in order to see one septal heart defect. And 62 mothers would have to take more than one SSRI to see a problem in one child.

"A potential association with malformations must be considered in the choice of treatment of depression during pregnancy," said Dr. Lars Henning Pedersen, lead author and a research assistant in the department of epidemiology at Aarhus University in Denmark. However, "if our data is correct, the absolute risk is low, which must be balanced against the potential substantial risk of under- or untreated depression during pregnancy."

Other experts agree. "Early exposure can slightly increase the risk of heart defects, but the overall risk is still very, very small," added Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

And discontinuing antidepressants also carries risks.

"The concern with pregnant women with depression, if you take them off their medication, they can have a relapse into severe depression and this could lead to self-destructive behaviors," Wu said.

Previous studies have found that pregnant women who stopped taking their antidepressant medications were five times more likely to relapse than women who continued with the medication.

In the United States, 13 percent of women have taken an antidepressant while pregnant, according to an accompanying editorial.

Recent research has indicated a higher risk of various defects, including heart defects, among pregnant women taking antidepressants, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have issued warnings about possible birth defects associated with the use of the SSRI Paxil (paroxetine) by moms-to-be.

But existing studies have yielded conflicting results about dangers associated with specific drugs.

These researchers looked at almost 500,000 children born in Denmark between 1996 and 2003, a time when the number of pregnant women taking antidepressants quadrupled.

Although no overall association was found in this study between mothers taking SSRIs during the first trimester and birth defects in general, there was a doubling in the risk for septal heart defects for women using Zoloft and Celexa, but not Prozac (fluoxetine) or Paxil.

Pedersen recommended more and larger studies to explore the matter.

In August, the American Psychiatric Association in collaboration with ACOG recommended that women with major depression who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant can start or continue with antidepressant drugs, while women who choose to stop taking the drugs should consider psychotherapy.

"Ideally, you'd want to work closely with a psychiatrist and ob/gyn when planning a pregnancy," Wu said. "When you are suddenly pregnant, there's a lot of anxiety involved and other hormones, so it's probably not a good time at that point to try to go off medications, and it certainly should be supervised."

Patients who are relatively stable, on the other hand, could consider going off their medications for the first trimester, knowing that it will take four-to-six weeks for the drug effect to wear off and also knowing that the medications would be resumed at the first sign of a relapse, Wu said.

SOURCES: Lars Henning Pedersen, M.D., Ph.D., research assistant, department of epidemiology, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark, and visiting scholar, University of California Los Angeles School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology; Jennifer Wu, M.D., obstetrician and gynecologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Sept. 24, 2009, BMJ, online Published on: September 25, 2009