A recent study conducted by lead researcher Hanan El Marroun and his team which was published in the March 5 online edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry shows that women taking antidepressant medications like Paxil during pregnancy risk giving birth to babies with a smaller head size.

This study also showed that SSRIs like Paxil taken during pregnancy also increased the chance that the babies would be born early.

“Fetal body growth is a marker of fetal health and fetal head growth is a marker for brain development,” said Marroun, who is a postdoctorate fellow in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at Sophia Children’s Hospital and Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. “We found prenatal exposure to SSRIs was associated with decreased growth of the head, but not decreased growth of the body.”

Marroun continued by saying that, “If the depression is untreated, it affected the whole body; but if the mother used SSRIs, the head growth of the fetus was affected. This may mean that smaller head growth is not explained by depression, but by the SSRIs. We don’t know what this means for the long-term development of these children.”

Many medical professionals believe that SSRIs are being prescribed far too often these days, and many of them are flat-out stating that the pills don’t work any better than placebos anyway. It is for that reason that many doctors are now recommending lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise, to treat depression instead of jumping to the medication. This newest study only adds to the dangers that SSRIs like Paxil cause to babies exposed to the drugs in-utero. SSRIs have also been proven to cause birth defects in babies whose mothers took the pills during pregnancy. Some of the birth defects linked to SSRIs like Paxil include PPHN, cleft palate, neural tube defects and heart, lung and brain defects.