Treating maternal psychiatric disorder with commonly used antidepressants is associated with a lower risk of certain pregnancy complications including preterm birth and delivery by Caesarean section, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University Medical Center, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. However, the medications — selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs — resulted in an increased risk of neonatal problems. Findings are published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The Columbia researchers with colleagues in Finland studied 845,345 single births in 1996 through 2010 from the Finnish Medical Birth Register. They also analyzed data from national registers on prescription drug purchases, mothers’ psychiatric history, maternal medical history, hospital sources, and healthcare professionals.

The women were categorized into mutually exclusive groups: SSRI users, those with a psychiatric diagnosis related to SSRI use but no antidepressant purchases, and those without a diagnosis or antidepressant purchases, to determine if outcomes were a result of maternal underlying psychiatric illness or due to use of the drugs.

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