Monthly Archives: March 2008

Acupuncture for the Treatment of Menopausal Hot Flashes

Many women report vasomotor symptoms, including hot flushes and night sweats, during the menopausal transition. While estrogen is clearly one of the most effective treatments for vasomotor symptoms, recent concerns regarding the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have made treaters much more reluctant to recommend HRT, even for short-term management of vasomotor symptoms. A recent study has demonstrated that acupuncture may be an effective non-hormonal treatment for vasomotor symptoms.

Switching Antidepressants After the First Trimester

Q. I am currently talking Remeron for depression. I am about 16 weeks pregnant and doing well. I recently started working with a new psychiatrist, and my new doctor suggested that I switch to Prozac because he thought it would be safer for the baby. I am a little worried about making a change; I have never tried Prozac before and had a bad reaction (horrible anxiety and insomnia) when I tried Lexapro.

PPHN and SSRIs: New Findings

Over the past few years, multiple reports have raised questions regarding the safety of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants during pregnancy. Chambers and colleagues reported that exposure to SSRIs late in pregnancy may be associated with an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). In the general population, PPHN affects about 1 to 2 per 1000 live births. Infants with PPHN are typically full-term or near-term and present shortly after delivery with severe respiratory distress. In the worst cases, PPHN requires intubation and mechanical ventilation and may result in long-term morbidity. In 2006, Chambers and colleagues published an article linking SSRI use during late pregnancy to an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn. Based on the results of this analysis, the authors estimated the risk of PPHN to be about 1% in infants exposed to SSRIs late in pregnancy (after 20 weeks).

SSRIs and Pregnancy: Evaluating New Reproductive Safety Data

Over the past 15 years, multiple studies have addressed the reproductive safety of various antidepressants. Data on the overall teratogenicity of SSRIs has come from relatively small prospective observational studies, larger international birth registries, managed health care databases, and case series; these data have cumulatively supported the reproductive safety of fluoxetine and certain other SSRIs. In a recent meta-analysis including 1774 antidepressant-exposed infants, first trimester exposure to SSRIs was not associated with an increased risk of major malformations above the baseline of 2%-3% seen in the general population (Einarson & Einarson, 2005). The bulk of the data thus far has suggested that SSRIs are not major teratogens; however, concerns about the potential teratogenicity of SSRIs were first raised in 2005 when several preliminary studies suggested that paroxetine may be associated with a small increase in risk of congenital abnormalities.

Untreated Maternal Depression: What is the Impact on the Unborn Child?

Depression during pregnancy is common. While concerns have been raised regarding the potential teratogenic and long-term neurobehavioral effects of psychotropic drug use during pregnancy, what is often overlooked is the fact that untreated maternal depression may also put the unborn baby at risk.

Hormone Replacement Therapy Revisited

As a result of dramatically increased life expectancies in industrialized countries, healthy women today expect to spend nearly 40% of their lives after menopause. For these postmenopausal women, lack of estrogen may contribute to long-term adverse effects, including cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Many postmenopausal women might benefit from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogens and progestins; however, a number of recent studies in the USA and Europe suggest that the potential risks of hormonal replacement therapy may sometime exceed the expected benefits. Thus, many treaters now avoid the use of hormone replacement therapy in peri- and postmenopausal women.

Bipolar Disorder and Pregnancy: Should Medications Be Discontinued?

As many of the traditional mood stabilizers used to treat bipolar disorder, including lithium and valproic acid, carry some teratogenic risk and the reproductive safety of other medications, including the atypical antipsychotic agents, has not been well-characterized, many women with bipolar disorder decide to discontinue their treatment during pregnancy. A new study from Dr. Adele Viguera and her colleagues at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Emory University School of Medicine helps to better define the risks associated with discontinuing treatment during pregnancy.

Desvenlafaxine for the Treatment of Menopausal Hot Flushes

Last Friday, Wyeth received FDA approval for the antidepressant desvenlafaxine succinate (marketed under the name Pristiq), a metabolite of venlafaxine or Effexor. Although this drug was approved for the treatment of major depression, a recent study has demonstrated that desvenlafaxine could be an effective treatment for vasomotor symptoms in postmenopausal women.

Depression is More Common in Women with High Risk Pregnancies

Epidemiologic studies suggest that about 10% to 15% of women suffer from clinically significant depressive symptoms during pregnancy. Little is known, however, about the prevalence of depression among women with high risk pregnancies. A recent study published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggests that this population may be at significant risk for antenatal depression.