Do Antidepressants in Pregnancy Affect Baby?
Study Shows Some Developmental Milestones May Be Slightly Delayed
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
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
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
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
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
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
There was little difference between the antidepressant-exposed and unexposed
babies in other milestones, including language, hearing, and social
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