Antidepressants in pregnancy may lead to speech problems for baby
Women who take antidepressants while pregnant are at a higher risk of having children with speech or learning difficulties, a new study has found.
This first-of-its-find research by Columbia University found the chemicals in the pills, taken to balance mood, enter the foetus’ circulation through the placenta.
Using a sample of 845,345 single, live births between 1996 and 2010 from national registries in Finland, groups were split into mothers who bought selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) once or more before or during their pregnancy, women who were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder a year before or during pregnancy but didn’t take medication, and mothers who never bought antidepressants or were diagnosed.
Researchers found that mothers who purchased antidepressants at least twice during pregnancy had a 37 per cent increased risk of speech or language disorders among their offspring compared to mothers with depression and other psychiatric disorders who were not treated with antidepressants.
Professor Alan Brown, of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said: “We believe that our finding about children of mothers who purchased at least two SSRI prescriptions during pregnancy is particularly meaningful because these women are more likely to have taken these medications, and more likely to have been exposed for a longer period and to larger amounts of the SSRI in pregnancy, compared to women who filled only one prescription.”
However, in the whole sample, not taking into account the number of SSRI purchases, the risk of disorders – including expressive language disorders and ones involving articulation of noises – was upped in both mothers who used them during pregnancy as well as mothers who were depressed but didn’t take the pills. Further, there was no proof in a correlation between academic performance and motor disorders in children and maternal SSRI exposure.
“The strengths of our study include the large, population based birth cohort, prospective data on SSRI purchases during pregnancy, a comparison group of mothers with depression who were not taking antidepressants, and an extensive national register database that included other known confounders,” Professor Brown added. “However the severity of maternal depression cannot be ruled out as an explanation for the increased childhood speech and language disorders among mothers who filled more than one SSRI prescription and further study is warranted.”
The results were published online in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.