Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Taking antidepressants during pregnancy significantly increases a woman’s risk of high blood pressure, although the absolute risk remains low, a study finds.
Approximately 20% of pregnant women experience depression during pregnancy, and as many as 14% take antidepressants. Now, results of a study
published online on March 21, 2012, in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
suggest that those women may be at elevated risk for high blood pressure. This is a new finding—and one that pharmacists should heed.
Researchers examined data for approximately 13,000 pregnant women, 1216 of whom developed hypertension after becoming pregnant. Their results showed that women on antidepressants had a 53% higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Women who took the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) paroxetine were at an 81% increased risk. SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants in pregnant women.
Nonetheless, absolute risk for pregnant women taking these drugs remained low. Pregnancy itself is a risk factor for hypertension, with an absolute risk of 2%. Antidepressants of any kind raised an expectant mother’s absolute risk to approximately 3.1%. Taking SSRIs raised their absolute risk to 3.2%, and using paroxetine specifically raised it to 3.6%. The researchers stress that further study is needed to confirm these findings.
The results do not confirm a direct cause-and-effect relationship. If pregnant women are concerned about the potential side effects of antidepressants, pharmacists should suggest that they consult their physician. Additionally, pharmacists may want to help pregnant women taking antidepressants (and others at high risk) monitor their blood pressure.
Ms. Wick is a visiting professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy and a freelance writer from Virginia.
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