No Long-Term Effects of Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy

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New studies indicate that there are no long-term behavioral impacts on children who are born to mothers that took antidepressants while pregnant. However, the same research indicated there may be an increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage.

Marte Handal, PhD, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and colleagues examined the effects of prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) on motor skills development at age 3 in more than 51,000 children from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. A total of 159 mothers reported long-term use of SSRIs during pregnancy.

While children of mothers who took SSRIs had slight delay in gross motor skills compared to other children, the difference was so small, it does not warrant clinical practice changes, the researchers reported in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Effective treatment of depression during pregnancy is essential and these results should not discourage healthcare professionals from prescribing or continuing antidepressant treatment to those who need it,” Handal said in a statement.

In another study, Australian researchers analyzed data from 49,000 women registered on the Danish National Birth Cohort to examine prenatal exposure to SSRIs on behavioral problems at age 7. Untreated prenatal depression was associated with an increased risk of problem behavior in the children, hyperactivity, inattention, and peer problems. But this increased risk was not seen in the children of mothers who took antidepressants.

Risks and Benefits of Antidepressant Use in Pregnancy
However, researchers say there may be a link between antidepressants and postpartum hemorrhage.

The use of antidepressants during pregnancy has no long term neurodevelopmental or behavioral effects on the child, however they may be associated with an increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage, suggests the findings from three studies published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG).

The use of antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat depression during pregnancy has become increasingly common, however, it is unclear whether any increased risk to the fetus, and health problems for the woman or baby, can be attributed directly to these drugs or may be caused by other factors. The research published today examines the effects SSRI use on the health of both the mother and the long term development of the child.

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