According to data collected in the Quebec Pregnancy Registry, there may be a link between antidepressant intake during pregnancy and hypertension or high blood pressure. High blood pressure during pregnancy is often associated with preeclampsia, but not all cases may be attributed to this life-threatening condition if a definitive link between antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and hypertension is proven.

Researchers looked at pregnancy histories of more than 1,200 women. Among the histories reviewed, women taking SSRIs during pregnancy were more likely to suffer high blood pressure during pregnancy. There was only a slight increase in overall reports – 2% (control) to 3.2% (SSRI), but that small uptick accounts for a 60-percent increased risk of hypertension. Researchers were also able to pinpoint a particular SSRI that caused an even greater increase in hypertension risk – paroxetine (81-percent).

The impact of antidepressant intake on pregnancy outcome is extremely important because up to 14-percent of all pregnant women take antidepressants during pregnancy. However, it is not a simple task to just tell all women they shouldn’t take antidepressants because of an increased risk of hypertension. Stopping antidepressants during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of relapse and postpartum depressive issues. There needs to be education about the potential increased risk of hypertension, but in some cases, the risks are not as important as the benefits of taking antidepressants during pregnancy.

According to Dr. Anick Berard, “This research adds another piece of evidence and shows the importance of fully assessing the risks and the benefits of antidepressant use during pregnancy for the mother and child.” The research findings were published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Obstetricians may be able to use the results from this research study to establish clinical guidelines for treating pregnant women taking antidepressants at the time of conception. While stopping antidepressants may not be a solution, other treatment options and careful monitoring could help prevent pregnancy complications.

Source: Dr. Anick Berard, et al. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 22 March 2012.