No Hike in Risk of Kids' Intellectual Disability Found with Antidepressants During Pregnancy

New research finds that the risk of intellectual disability in children born to mothers treated with antidepressants is small and not statistically significant.

In the first-of its kind study, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that any risks were likely due to other factors, including parental age and the parents’ psychiatric history.

While other studies have examined the risk of autism in mother’s who took antidepressants during pregnancy, this is the first study to examine the risk of such disability in this population.

Intellectual disability is defined by an IQ below 70 with deficits that impair everyday functioning. The disability is commonly diagnosed in childhood and is characterized by major limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. No treatments exist for intellectual disability, and it is associated with substantial health care costs.

Sven Sandin, Ph.D., of the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and coauthors including Abraham Reichenberg, Ph.D., also of the Icahn School of Medicine, culled data from Swedish national registers. The population-based study of 179,007 children, born from 2006 through 2007, followed up from birth until a diagnosis of intellectual disability, death or the end of the follow-up in 2014.

Approximately 4,000 of those children were exposed to antidepressants and other psychotropic medications during pregnancy. The researchers compared the risk in these children with a subsample of 23,551children whose mothers were diagnosed with depression or anxiety prior to childbirth but did not use antidepressants during pregnancy.

Of the 179,007 children included in the study, intellectual disability was diagnosed in 37 (0.9 percent) exposed to antidepressants and in 819 children (0.5 percent) who were unexposed to antidepressants, according to the results.

After adjusting for potential confounders, including parental age, the risk of ID after exposure to antidepressant medication was not statistically significant in both the full-population sample and in the sub-sample of women with a history of depression.

“The study did not find a robust association between ID and maternal antidepressant medication during pregnancy,” said Sandin.

The researchers note that while the study was conducted in Sweden, the findings are applicable in most countries where antidepressants are prescribed.

“Our study provides more information for clinicians to evaluate the risks in pregnant women taking antidepressants,” said Reichenberg.

“It should be factored into other considerations such as the increased risk for the mother if not medicated, the drug’s side effects, and other medical conditions.”

Source: The Mount Sinai Hospital/EurekAlert