Antidepressant use in pregnancy linked to kids’ health risks

Zoloft MDL

Two new studies have tied antidepressants used during pregnancy to health risks for kids.

The studies looked at a common antidepressant and whether children exposed to its use had an increased risk of complications after birth and even years later. Results from one study indicated that newborns were more likely to require intensive care post-birth if their mothers used selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy. Also, the second study found that the same children several years later had an increased risk for language and speech disorders.

Previous studies also had found links between SSRIs and these birth complications, however, they were not as reliable.
Having said that, doctors emphasize individualized assessments, and that more harm could occur if SSRIs are not used. Each situation and patient is different and each patient should consult their medical providers based on the specifics of their own health requirements.

Well known SSRIs are Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and Lexapro.  Each SSRI increases serotonin chemical levels to treat depression.

A study in Sweden looked at just under 750,000 births over a six year period ending in 2012 and found that almost two percent of the children had been exposed to SSRIs while in the womb. The study out of Lund University found that about 14 percent of newborns exposed to SSRIs were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after birth, compared to about 8 percent of those not exposed to the drug. The study results published in the journal Pediatrics also pointed out that there was an increased risk when mothers took SSRIs late in pregnancy.

Researchers in another study analyzed data on some 56,000 children in Findland, most under the age of 9, to see if those who’d been exposed to SSRIs in the womb were more likely to have cognitive problems.

About 28 percent had been exposed to SSRIs during pregnancy. Another 17 percent were born to mothers who had depression but did not purchase SSRIs during pregnancy. The remaining 55 percent were born to mothers who didn’t take SSRIs and did not have depression.

There were no links between SSRI exposure in the womb and scholastic or motor disorders in the children, according to Dr. Alan Brown at Columbia University in New York City and his colleagues, who included researchers from the University of Turku in Finland.

However, a JAMA Psychiatry report stated that for children whose mothers purchased at least two SSRI prescriptions during pregnancy, the speech and language disorders risk was 37 percent higher when compared to children whose mothers had depression but didn’t take the drugs, and 63 percent higher than for children whose mothers didn’t have depression.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Psychiatric Association published in a 2009 joint report that depression and antidepressant medications during pregnancy are linked to negative consequences for newborns.

The organizations believe that some women with mild-to-moderate depression can be treated with psychotherapy alone or with medication. Also, they say there is a need for ongoing discussions between patients’ psychiatrist and obstetrician during pregnancy. It is further recommended not to discontinue use of medications without consulting one’s doctor.