In 2007 there were several studies that came out with reports that Wellbutrin (bupropion), a drug used to frequently treat depression has been proven safe to take during pregnancy. However, according to new research, this may not be the case after all. And this leads one to wonder if they shouldâ€™ve avoided this drug after all.
Wellbutrin has been classified by the FDA as a Pregnancy Category C drug, meaning that there is a potential risk for birth defects, however because of previous studies and articles published, this drug continues to be prescribed to pregnant woman, with little or no regard to the potential effects to their unborn child.
In an article written by Deborah Kotz for usnews.com in June of 07, she quoted Mr. Charles Lockwood, the chair of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Yale University School of Medicine and spokesperson for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “As the evidence grows, it’s becoming clearer in my mind that the link between SSRIâ€™s and birth defects is tenuous at best but probably real.” ACOG already recommends against the use of Paxil in pregnancy because of previous research suggesting it increases heart defects, but Lockwood says he’s not yet convinced that other SSRIâ€™s pose smaller risks. He believes that pregnant women taking any SSRI should get regular sonograms to check for fetal heart defects and that bupropion (Wellbutrin), a non-SSRI, should be considered as a first line of therapy; it’s mild and considered to be the safest antidepressant.
However, using a study taken from the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, online April 26, 2010, Reuters Health reported in a May 2010 article that researchers found that among more than 12,700 U.S. infants born between 1997 and 2004, those whose mothers used Wellbutrin (bupropion) during early pregnancy had more than double the risk of heart defects known as left outflow tract defects, compared with infants whose mothers had not used the drug.
Left outflow defects affect the flow of blood from the heart’s left chambers to the rest of the body. In this study, the most common type of this defect was coarctation of the aorta — a narrowing in the body’s main artery that, in children, typically requires surgical repair.
Dr. Jennita Reefhuis, a senior epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the researchers on the study, says that, â€œThere are, however, no depression medications that have been established as “safe” for pregnant womenâ€ and â€œmore research on the potential effects of all antidepressants on the developing fetus is still needed.â€
Guidelines released last year by the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that psychotherapy may be an effective alternative to antidepressants for pregnant women with mild to moderate depression.
However, the guidelines say, women with a history of more severe depression, or other major psychiatric disorders, may need to continue with their medication.
But, double the risk? Is that a risk really worth taking?