Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

SSRI'S and other antidepressant use during pregnancy and potential neonatal adverse effects: Impact of a public health advisory and subsequent reports in the news media

A Einarson1*, AK Schachtschneider2, R Halil3, E Bollano1 and G Koren1

Author Affiliations

1 The Motherisk Program, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada

2 Department of Pharmacoepidemiology & Pharmacotherapy, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht, The Netherlands

3 The Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2005, 5:11  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-5-11

Published: 20 May 2005



On Aug 9th 2004 Health Canada released an advisory, which followed a similar one from the FDA regarding the use of SSRI's and other antidepressants during pregnancy and potential adverse effects on newborns. In neither advisory was it stated that women should discontinue their antidepressant. In the seven days following the release of this advisory, The Motherisk Program received 49 calls from anxious women in response to the media reporting of this information.


To examine the impact of the advisory and subsequent reporting in the media, on the decision-making of women, currently taking an antidepressant, who called The Motherisk Program after becoming aware of this information.


We attempted to follow up all the women who had called us who were alarmed by this advisory and asked them to complete a specially designed questionnaire.


We were able to complete 43/49 (88%) follow-ups of the women who contacted us. All of the callers reported that the messages in the media caused a great deal of anxiety. Seven misunderstood the advisory, ie their children were more than 1 year old, five had discontinued their antidepressant (3 abruptly (2 later restarted after speaking with Motherisk counsellors)and 2 with some form of tapering off) and(6) were considering discontinuation, but decided to continue following reassurance from Motherisk


Medical information regarding fetal and infant safety, disseminated in the public domain, should be transferred in a way that does not influence a pregnant woman to make decisions that may not be in the best interest of hers or her child's health.