Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors during pregnancy and risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn: population based cohort study from the five Nordic countries

BMJ. 2012 Jan 12;344:d8012. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d8012.


Objective: To assess whether maternal use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increases the risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn, and whether such an effect might differ between specific SSRIs.

Design: Population based cohort study using data from the national health registers.

Setting: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, 1996-2007.

Participants: More than 1.6 million infants born after gestational week 33.

Main outcome measures: Risks of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn associated with early and late exposure to SSRIs during pregnancy and adjusted for important maternal and pregnancy characteristics. Comparisons were made between infants exposed and not exposed to SSRIs.

Results: Around 30 000 women had used SSRIs during pregnancy and 11 014 had been dispensed an SSRI later than gestational week 20. Exposure to SSRIs in late pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn: 33 of 11 014 exposed infants (absolute risk 3 per 1000 liveborn infants compared with the background incidence of 1.2 per 1000); adjusted odds ratio 2.1 (95% confidence interval 1.5 to 3.0). The increased risks of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn for each of the specific SSRIs (sertraline, citalopram, paroxetine, and fluoxetine) were of similar magnitude. Filling a prescription with SSRIs before gestational week 8 yielded slightly increased risks: adjusted odds ratio 1.4 (95% confidence interval 1.0 to 2.0).

Conclusions: The risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn is low, but use of SSRIs in late pregnancy increases that risk more than twofold. The increased risk seems to be a class effect.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Fetus / drug effects*
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / chemically induced*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / epidemiology
  • Iceland / epidemiology
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / epidemiology
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors