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SSRI medications increase risk of high blood pressure

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Pregnant women who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during or after pregnancy face an increased risk for developing high blood pressure according to a Canadian study.

The study published this week in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology examined more than 1,200 women listed in the Quebec Pregnancy Registry who were diagnosed with pregnancy-induced hypertension and showed no symptoms of high blood pressure prior to becoming pregnant.

Women taking antidepressants were compared to women not taking antidepressants, and researchers tried to adjust for factors like anxiety and depression that could raise blood pressure.

Women who used any form of antidepressant during pregnancy were found to be 50% more likely to suffer high blood pressure. Those taking SSRIs were 60% more likely. Paxil® users faced more than an 80% risk for developing hypertension.

Paxil is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. According to WebMD, SSRIs are usually the first choice in treating postpartum depression. Previous studies have focused on birth defects caused by mothers taking SSRIs during pregnancy. More than 800 lawsuits have been filed against drug makers, including Paxil maker GlaxoSmithKline, for failing to disclose the risk of newborns developing persistent pulmonary hypertension and congenital heart defects. The company is also accused of concealing test results and misleading doctors about risks associated with Paxil use.