USE OF SERTRALINE IN PREGNANCY

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(Date of issue: January 2017, Version: 2.2)

This is a UKTIS monograph for use by health care professionals. For case-specific advice please contact UKTIS on 0344 892 0909. To report an exposure please download and complete a pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.

A corresponding patient information leaflet on sertraline use in pregnancy is available at www.medicinesinpregnancy.org.

Summary

Sertraline is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used in the treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder with or without agoraphobia.

Data on the risk of congenital malformations following sertraline use in early pregnancy are conflicting. The majority of individual studies and two meta-analyses demonstrate no statistically significant increase in the overall risk of any malformation or of cardiovascular malformations following first trimester exposure. However, four individual studies have identified associations with septal heart defects and a meta-analysis has described an increased rate of cardiovascular-related defects and specifically, atrial/ventricular septal defects following first trimester sertraline exposure. Since the published data are contradictory, the teratogenic potential of sertraline remains unproven.

Studies which investigated the risk of spontaneous abortion, intrauterine death, preterm delivery and low birth weight following sertraline use in pregnancy have not provided good evidence for an increased risk of any of these outcomes. However, much of the available data are too limited to state that no increase in the risk of these outcomes exists.

In utero exposure to SSRIs in the weeks prior to delivery confers a risk of transient neonatal withdrawal syndrome and infants should be monitored for associated central nervous system, motor, respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms. An increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) of the newborn has also been reported following exposure to SSRIs as a class beyond 20 weeks of gestation. The first studies which identified an association between prenatal SSRI exposure and PPHN suggested that the risk was considerably higher than the background rate of 0.1-0.2%. However, more recent studies which utilise larger study sample sizes and more representative unexposed controls have suggested that the risk is more in keeping with the background rate. Although the current estimate as to the absolute risk of PPHN following SSRI exposure (<0.35%) suggests that it would be an uncommon event, the occurrence of PPHN represents a potentially serious neonatal complication.

It is important to ensure that maternal mental health is treated appropriately. As such, sertraline may be suitable for use in pregnancy, but the risks and benefits of use must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Where possible, non-pharmaceutical management of depression and/or anxiety is preferable in pregnancy. Where a patient is stabilised on sertraline, either prior to conception or during pregnancy, the risk of discontinuing treatment, changing the medication, or reducing the dose, should be carefully weighed against the risk maternal relapse during pregnancy may pose to both mother and child. In cases where treatment with sertraline is continued in pregnancy, the lowest effective dose should be used. 

At present there is insufficient evidence to warrant additional fetal monitoring. Exposure to sertraline at any stage in pregnancy would not usually be regarded as medical grounds for termination of pregnancy. However, other risk factors may be present in individual cases which may independently increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcome. Clinicians are reminded of the importance of consideration of such factors when performing case-specific risk assessments.

This document is regularly reviewed and updated. Only use full UKTIS monographs downloaded directly from TOXBASE.org to be sure you are using the most up-to-date version. The summaries of these monographs are openly available on UKTIS.org.

This is a summary of the full UKTIS monograph for health care professionals and should not be used in isolation. The full UKTIS monograph and access to any hyperlinked related documents is available to health care professionals at www.toxbase.org.

If you have a patient with exposure to a drug or chemical and require assistance in making a patient-specific risk assessment, please telephone UKTIS on 0344 892 0909 to discuss the case with a teratology specialist.

If you would like to report a pregnancy to UKTIS please click here to download our pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that this monograph was accurate and up-to-date at the time of writing, however it cannot cover every eventuality and the information providers cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes of the measures recommended. The final decision regarding which treatment is used for an individual patient remains the clinical responsibility of the prescriber. This material may be freely reproduced for education and not for profit purposes within the UK National Health Service, however no linking to this website or reproduction by or for commercial organisations is permitted without the express written permission of this service. This document is regularly reviewed and updated. Only use UKTIS monographs downloaded directly from TOXBASE.org or UKTIS.org to ensure you are using the most up-to-date version.