Prevalence and patterns of antidepressant use among women of reproductive age in Northern Ireland.

Antidepressant exposure is high among women of childbearing age in Northern Ireland. A preliminary analysis of Health and Social Care Business Services Organisation Enhanced Prescribing Database has estimated a prevalence rate at 19.2% among women aged 15-45 years for July 2008 – February 2010. It is important to regularly monitor medicinal drug use among women of childbearing age and those in early pregnancy because the teratogenicity of most prescription drugs is undetermined and many pregnancies are unplanned. A meta-analysis of studies found exposure to paroxetine (paxil) in early pregnancy to increase the risk of major birth defects, (OR 1.24, 95% CI 1.08, 1.43) and specifically cardiac defects (OR 1.46, 95% CI 1.17, 1.82) (Wurst et al. 2009). The potential public health problem of antidepressant use in pregnancy depends both on prevalence and risk of exposure.

This study aims to determine the prevalence and patterns of antidepressant use among women of childbearing age and pregnant women (15-45 years) and its variation with socio-demographic factors in NI using prescription, NILS and NIMDM data. The subjects are women (15-45 years) in GP practices with at least 70% electronic prescribing data for July 2008 – February 2010. These women will be linked to NIMDM to identify those with births and access socio-demographic variables. Logistic regression analysis will be used to explore the association between use of antidepressants and socio-demographic variables. Antidepressant use in pregnancy will be examined across pre-pregnancy through postnatal periods. This research will help identify proportion of pregnancies exposed to potentially teratogenic drugs, provide data for guiding drug prescription policy, and identify potential confounders for future epidemiological studies of antidepressant use in pregnancy and risk to fetus.



Wemakor, A.K. Antidepressant Use in Pregnancy: Risks and Prevalence. Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, University of Ulster. February 2013.

Wekamor, A. (2012) ‘Antidepressant use in pregnancy: prevalence and risks’ – presented at PhD seminar, University of Ulster, November 2012.

Research Team: Helen Dolk, Anthony Wemakor, Karen Casson and Lolkje Jong-van den Berg
Database: NILS
Project Status: Complete
Organisation(s): University of Ulster