Should You Take Your Prozac?

February 8, 2006

Warning: This column is not for Tom Cruise and his ilk for we already know where the good doctor stands on antidepressants.

Joking aside, both the Washington Post and New York Times ran stories on contradictory studies regarding antidepressant use during pregnancy. The New York Times cited a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed that depressed women who stopped taking their meds were two and a half times as often to relapse.

The article further mentioned a second study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine that newborns exposed to Prozac and similar antidepressants in the womb could get “neonatal abstinence syndrome” — a 48-hour condition that arouses crying, tremors, sleep problems and gastrointestinal disturbances.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post ran a scary story based on research by the New England Journal of Medicine, showing that the gestation of Prozac and other similar antidepressants while pregnant could cause a rare, but life-threatening lung problem, in the newborn.

For pregnant women already taking these drugs, rest assured. As these stories pointed out, all the test samples were small: 207 women in the Journal of the American Medical Association study, only 60 infants in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine research, and only 14 of the 377 infants with the lung condition had mothers who took antidepressants during the second half of their pregnancy. Said one of the researchers of the study linking antidepressants to the lung condition:

One of the researchers, Christina Chambers of the University of California at San Diego, said of the findings, “If it’s a true risk, it’s very low.” According to the researchers’ calculations, 99 percent of women who took the antidepressants late in pregnancy would deliver a child without the problem.

Most, if not all, the researchers accepted money from the pharmaceutical industry, both newspapers reported. Medical experts suggested speaking to a doctor before discontinuing an antidepressant. Dr. Cruise?