Prescription Drugs Affect Unborn Babies Reported February 10, 2004

Ivanhoe Newswire — Women who use a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to treat depression or other psychiatric problems during pregnancy may be putting their infants at risk for neurobehavioral problems, report
investigators publishing in this month’s Pediatrics.

The lifetime risk for depression in women ranges from 10 percent to 25 percent, with the peak prevalence occurring during the childbearing years.

Some reports suggest as many as 14 percent of pregnant women suffer from
depression and up to 35 percent of women use antidepressants during
pregnancy. Studies involving infants exposed to SSRIs in the womb have
shown few ill effects, so most doctors believe these drugs can be safely
prescribed for pregnant women. However, most of these studies have only
compared major outcomes, such as physical growth and complications evident on the medical record.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
studied 17 full-term newborns whose mothers had taken an SSRI during
pregnancy and 17 similar infants whose mothers had not taken one of the
drugs, assessing them for more subtle neurobehavioral differences. They
found infants exposed to SSRIs in the womb were more likely to have had a
shorter gestational age, and were also more likely to suffer from a range
of neurobehavioral problems, including nervousness, startles, and sleep
disturbances. After adjusting the findings for gestational age,
differences in nervousness and sleep disturbances remained significant.
Researchers conclude, “Results of the present study call into
question the conclusion that SSRI use during pregnancy has little impact on the developing fetus and infant outcome.”

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SOURCE: Pediatrics, 2004:113:368-375

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