About 15% of women of childbearing age filled prescriptions for antidepressants at least once a year during 2008-2013, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Women between the ages of 35 and 44 years made up the largest share of those filling an antidepressant prescription. The most commonly filled prescriptions were for sertraline, bupropion, and citalopram ( Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Jan 29;65:41-6 ).

The analysis is based on prescription information from a database of employer-sponsored insurance plans representing an average of 5.8 million women aged 15-44 years for each year of the study.

The findings raise public health concerns given the possible association between some antidepressants and birth defects and the large number of unintended pregnancies, wrote the investigators, led by April L. Dawson of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

A recent analysis of the National Birth Defects Prevention Study data found that paroxetine and fluoxetine, both SSRIs, were linked with a higher rate of some birth defects, including cardiac abnormalities, though the increase in absolute risk was small ( BMJ 2015;351:h3190 ).

“Prescribing of antidepressants is common, and research on antidepressant safety during pregnancy needs to be accelerated to provide evidence-based information to health care providers and women about the potential risks for antidepressant exposure before and during pregnancy and between pregnancies,” Ms. Dawson and her colleagues wrote.

The study authors were employees of the CDC or the March of Dimes Foundation.