Report: Prozac in Pregnancy Toxic to Fetus
Expert Panel Says Prozac Affects Fetus -- and Adult Sex
WebMD News Archive
April 28, 2004 -- Taking the popular antidepressant drug Prozac
late in pregnancy may be toxic to the fetus, a government report shows.
Mothers who take Prozac during the third trimester of pregnancy
risk premature delivery, the report says. They also put their infants at risk
of "poor neonatal adaptation," including:
Quick, shallow breathing
Low blood sugar
Low body temperature
Poor muscle tone
Weak or absent cry
Diminished reaction to pain
Not getting enough oxygen while feeding
Increased admission to special-care nurseries
Prozac taken by breastfeeding mothers, the report says, may
retard infants' early growth.
These aren't Prozac's only effects on reproduction. The report
also says that the antidepressant also has "reproductive toxicity."
Adults taking the drug may find sexual orgasm difficult or impossible. And some
women taking the drug may have changes in the length of their menstrual
The report comes from the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to
Human Reproduction (CERHR). CERHR is part of the federal National Toxicology
Program at the National Institutes of Health. Its job is to convene expert
panels to look at possible threats to human reproduction -- including child
The chairman of the 12-member Prozac panel was pediatrician and
pharmacologist Ronald N. Hines, PhD, co-chief of pediatric pharmacology,
pharmacogenetics, and teratology at Medical College of Wisconsin,
"Patients should be aware that these are the risks of
taking Prozac," Hines tells WebMD. "They really should talk with their
doctors about them before going on the drug."
Tarra Ryker, spokeswoman for Prozac maker Eli Lilly & Co.,
says that the risks of untreated depression far outweigh those of properly
prescribed antidepressants. Lilly is a WebMD sponsor.
"We don't believe there is sufficient evidence to conclude
that Prozac is a developmental or a reproductive toxin," Ryker tells
Prozac Benefits -- Even During Pregnancy -- May Outweigh Risks
"There may be some side effects that cannot be avoided, but
the benefits of this drug may be so great they outweigh the risks," Hines
And the benefits may be huge, says psychiatrist Mark I. Levy,
MD, assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San
"The main benefit is it is preventing depression at a
vulnerable time in a vulnerable person," Levy tells WebMD. "Prozac can
be helpful in warding off postnatal depression, which is bad for a woman and
bad for her baby."
Women suffering from depression should not stop taking Prozac
or other antidepressants, says Lee S. Cohen, MD, director of the perinatal and
reproductive psychiatry clinical research program at Massachusetts General
Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Cohen serves as a consultant to Prozac
maker Eli Lilly & Co. He testified at the CERHR panel's public hearing.
"If women stop antidepressant treatment during pregnancy,
their risk for recurrence of their underlying depression is very, very
high," Cohen tells WebMD. "And depression during pregnancy is
associated with bad outcomes for newborns and very bad outcomes for