SSRI use in mothers may pose risk to child

November 1, 2009

Newborns who have been exposed in utero to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) taken by their mothers are at higher risk for shorter gestational age, preterm delivery and admission to a neonatal intensive care unit.

Newborns who have been exposed in utero to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) taken by their mothers are at higher risk for shorter gestational age, preterm delivery and admission to a neonatal intensive care unit, according to a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Najaaraq Lund, MD, Bandim Health Project in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, and colleagues reviewed data of 329 pregnant women who had taken SSRIs for depression, 4,902 with psychiatric history but no SSRI use, and 51,770 with no psychiatric history-all of whom gave birth at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark between 1989 and 2006. The researchers compared the newborns for birth weight, gestational age, head circumference, 5-minute Apgar score, and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.

Researchers found that the SSRI-exposed newborns had a gestational age 5 days shorter than infants of women with no psychiatric history and 3.8 days shorter than infants of women with a psychiatric history.

"Exposure to SSRIs during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery, a low 5-minute Apgar score, and neonatal intensive care unit admission, which was not explained by lower Apgar scores or gestational age," the authors concluded. "The study justifies increased awareness to the possible effects of intrauterine exposure to antidepressants."

Lund N, Pedersen LH, Henriksen TB. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor exposure in utero and pregnancy outcomes. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009;163(10):949-954.