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Evaluating the Safety of First-Trimester Exposure to Lamotrigine (Lamictal)

Early reports suggested that women with bipolar disorder may be at lower risk for onset or relapse of this disorder during pregnancy and that some women may be able to remain well during pregnancy despite medication discontinuation. However, more recent studies have suggested that recurrence of affective illness during pregnancy is relatively common among women with bipolar disorder. Dr. Adele Viguera and her colleagues at the Center for Women’s Mental Health reported that among pregnant bipolar women, relapse rates were very high (58%) in those women who discontinued maintenance treatment with lithium during pregnancy (Viguera et al 2000).

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Menstrual Cycle Irregularity in Women with Bipolar Disorder

Preliminary reports have suggested that menstrual irregularity may occur more commonly in women with mood disorders than in the general population. What has been unclear, however, is whether these menstrual cycle irregularities reflect an underlying disruption of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis in women with mood disorders or are caused by the psychotropic medications used to treat these psychiatric disorders.In a recent study, Dr. Hadine Joffe of the Center for Women’s Mental Health and her colleagues assessed the prevalence of menstrual cycle dysfunction in 3 groups of women: (1) with bipolar disorder, (2) with unipolar depression, or (3) with no psychiatric illness (Joffe 2006).

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Use of Paxil during Pregnancy

Q. I have taken Paxil for about six years for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have tried several times to stop the medication but the symptoms come back within a few weeks of stopping the medication. My husband and I are now planning a pregnancy, and my obstetrician tells me that I cannot take Paxil during pregnancy. Are there any other options?

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Withdrawal Symptoms in Newborns Exposed to SSRIs

A recent report suggests that newborns exposed to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Paxil may be at risk for developing withdrawal symptoms after delivery (Levinson-Castiel 2005). However, the investigators also noted that the symptoms usually disappeared within 48 hours and did not require medical intervention.

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SSRIs and Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn

Literature accumulated over the last decade supports the use of certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and the older tricyclic antidepressants during pregnancy, indicating no increased risk of congenital malformation in children exposed to these medications during the first trimester of pregnancy. Still, questions remain regarding the purported risk for “toxicity” in newborns exposed to antidepressants around the time of labor and delivery (see Fall 2004 and Spring 2005 Newsletters). In addition, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has linked SSRI use during late pregnancy to an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn (Chambers 2006).

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Relapse of Major Depression during Pregnancy

Over the last decade, the number of reproductive-age women treated for depression has increased significantly. Given the incomplete information available regarding the reproductive safety of many antidepressant medications, many women choose to discontinue pharmacologic treatment during pregnancy. However, several studies estimate that about 10 to 15% of women suffer from depression during pregnancy (O’Hara et al, 1990; Evans et al, 2001). A recent study from the Center for Women’s Mental Health indicates that the risk for depression is particularly high among women with histories of major depression (Cohen et al, 2006).

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SSRIs and Neonatal Outcomes: A Population-Based Study from Finland

Literature accumulated over the last decade supports the use of certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and the older tricyclic antidepressants during pregnancy, indicating no increased risk of congenital malformation in children exposed to these medications during the first trimester of pregnancy. Still, questions remain regarding the purported risk for “toxicity” in newborns exposed to antidepressants around the time of labor and delivery. Several recent studies have suggested that exposure to SSRIs at the time of delivery may be associated with poor perinatal outcomes (Casper 2003, Laine 2003, Simon 2002, Zeskind and Stephens 2004) and prompted the FDA to include warnings in the packaging inserts regarding the use of certain antidepressants, including the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and venlafaxine (Effexor), during pregnancy. These studies have been reviewed previously on the CWMH website (Newsletters Fall 2004 and Spring 2005).

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Reviewing the Safety of SSRI’s in Pregnancy

Over the past 15 years, multiple studies have addressed the reproductive safety of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Data on the overall teratogenicity of SSRIs come from relatively small cohort studies and larger international programs, and they have cumulatively supported the reproductive safety of fluoxetine (Prozac) and certain other SSRIs. However, several recent studies have raised concerns regarding the use of SSRIs during pregnancy.

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Escitalopram for Menopause-Related Depression and Vasomotor Symptoms

Every year more than 1.7 million women in the United States enter into menopause. During this time of hormonal fluctuations it is typical for women to experience hot flashes, night sweats and sleep disturbance. More recently, studies have identified an association between menopausal transition and an increased risk for developing depressive symptoms (Harlow et al., 2003; Freeman et al., 2004). It is not clear how physicians and patients should deal with menopause-related physical and emotional symptoms. While hormone therapy effectively treats insomnia and hot flashes, the results have been mixed in treating mood and anxiety symptoms. Moreover, the safety of long-term use of hormone therapy is not known.

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Atypical Antipsychotics during Pregnancy: What are the Risks?

Although primarily used to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, the newer “atypical” antipsychotic agents are now used widely to treat a spectrum of psychiatric disorders, including major depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD and other anxiety disorders. While the reproductive safety of the older typical antipsychotic drugs, such as haloperidol (Haldol) and perphenazine (Trilafon), is supported by data accumulated over the past 40 years, we have far less data on the newer atypical agents: olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), aripiprazole (Abilify), ziprasidone (Geodon), and clozapine (Clozaril).

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