New research suggests taking commonly prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy does not impact an infant’s growth over the first year.
The finding should allay fears raised by earlier studies that suggested antidepressant treatment in pregnancy reduced growth during the first year. Depression during pregnancy, too, can hamper the infant’s growth.
Northwestern Medicine scientists studied the effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, and found that infants born to mothers who took SSRIs during pregnancy had a similar weight, length and head circumference over the first year as infants born to non-depressed women who did not take antidepressants.
The infants whose mothers took antidepressants were shorter at birth, but the difference disappeared by two weeks of age.
In addition, growth measurements for the infants of depressed women who did not take SSRIs were similar to the general population.
“Most women want to know about the effect of their depressive illness or the medication they take during pregnancy not only on the infant at birth, but also on the baby’s longer-term growth and development,” said Northwestern Medicine lead author Katherine L. Wisner, M.D.
“This information may help women balance the risks and benefits of continuing their antidepressant treatment during pregnancy.”
Study results are published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry in Advance website and will be followed by print.
Researchers say that depression itself has negative impact on a mother’s and infant’s health as women who stop taking SSRIs near the time of conception have a high relapse rate.
Additionally, maternal prenatal stress and depression are linked to preterm birth and low infant birth weight, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Depression also affects a woman’s appetite, nutrition and prenatal care and is associated with increased alcohol and drug use. Untreated depression is also associated with a higher body mass index prior to conception – a factor that carries additional risks.
Source: Northwestern University