The Mirror - October 29, 2004

By Lorraine Fisher

PREGNANT women who take the anti-depressant Prozac may increase the risk of their children having mental problems.

Scientists found that young mice given the drug grow up anxious and depressed.

They believe Prozac - from the family of drugs known as SSRIs - interferes with a critical stage of brain development - making the animals prone to problems as they grow up.

In women this critical time would correspond to the last three months of pregnancy and the child would be affected from the age of eight.

Scientist Mark Ansorge of Colombia University, New York, said: "Exposure to SSRI-like antidepressants during this period of development may entail unexpected risks for affective function later in life."

Prozac works by blocking the chemical serotonin to the brain, causing levels to stay high. Having too little can lead to depression.

In the mice the serotonin gene was "knocked out" and from birth they showed symptoms of depression and anxiety-related behaviour.

The news comes amid reports of suicidal behaviour among young teenagers taking anti-depressants.

Prozac is prescribed to 38 million worldwide.

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