Skip to content

Depression Health Center

Font Size

Do Antidepressants in Pregnancy Affect Baby?

Study Shows Some Developmental Milestones May Be Slightly Delayed
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 23, 2010 -- Babies born to women who take antidepressants during pregnancy may experience small delays in reaching certain developmental milestones, but it is not clear if these delays are clinically significant, a study shows.

Compared to children born to women who did not take antidepressants, children born to women who did sat up for the first time, on average, 16 days later and walked almost a month later.

The exposed children still reached these milestones within the range of what is considered normal development. But the findings suggest antidepressant use during pregnancy has some impact on the fetal brain, study researcher Lars Henning Pedersen, MD, PhD, of Denmark's Aarhus University tells WebMD.

"We can't say if this impact is clinically meaningful," Pedersen says. "We really need longer follow-up of these children to say this with more certainty."

Motor Delays Did Not Persist

Animal studies have linked early exposure to antidepressants to lasting behavioral changes, but previous studies in humans have failed to confirm this finding.

In the newly published study, Pedersen and colleagues examined data from close to 82,000 babies born in Denmark between 1996 and 2002.

A total of 415 were born to mothers who used antidepressants during pregnancy, 489 were born to mothers who reported depression but did not take medication, and 81,042 were born to mothers who did not report depression or antidepressant use.

Most of the treated women took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Paxil.

Some took tricyclic antidepressants, a few took the serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) Effexor, and a few more took a combination of antidepressants.

The mothers provided information on a wide range of developmental milestones when their babies were around 6 months and 19 months old.

At age 6 months, babies born to mothers who took antidepressants in their second and third trimesters were twice as likely to be unable to sit up without support as babies born to women who didn't take antidepressants.

The delay was significant only for exposed boys, who were three times as likely to need assistance sitting up at age 6 months as unexposed babies.

No difference in motor development was seen at age 19 months, but the antidepressant-exposed toddlers did exhibit shorter attention spans than the unexposed toddlers.

There was little difference between the antidepressant-exposed and unexposed babies in other milestones, including language, hearing, and social development.

The study appears in the March issue of Pediatrics.

In a separate study reported last fall, Pedersen and colleagues found that antidepressant use during pregnancy may be associated with a slight increase in risk for a rare heart malformation.

For both studies, the researchers used data from a Danish birth registry.

Today on WebMD

contemplation
Differences between feeling depressed or blue.
light therapy
What are the symptoms?
 
depressed man sitting on hallway floor
Learn the truth about this serious illness.
Sad woman looking out of the window
Tips to stay the treatment course.
 
Woman taking pill
Article
Woman jogging outside
Feature
 
man screaming
Article
woman standing behind curtains
Article
 
Pet scan depression
Slideshow
antidepressants slideshow
Article
 
pill bottle
Article
Winding path
Article