Babies whose moms used antidepressants during pregnancy visit the doctor more often and have higher risks of certain health problems than other kids their age, according to a new study that examined medical records of nearly 39,000 Norwegian children through the first year of life,Reuters reports.
The study found rates of congenital heart defects and physical therapy, which is a potential sign of movement-related problems, were elevated among babies whose mothers used antidepressants throughout pregnancy. These children also tended to have more doctor visits and higher rates of such health problems as respiratory and digestive symptoms. However, those rates were also elevated among children whose mothers had stopped using antidepressants before pregnancy.
This raises the possibility that the risks were related to the mother's depression itself, rather than antidepressant use, according to researcher Tessa Ververs of the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands. But the question of whether to continue on antidepressants during pregnancy is not simple, Reuters writes.
Some recent reports have linked the meds to problems in newborns, including cases of congenital heart defects. Antidepressant use in the third trimester has also been connected to higher risks of respiratory distress, feeding problems and irritability in newborns, the researchers note in their report published in the British obstetrics journal BJOG. But there are also concerns about leaving depression untreated in expectant mothers, at a time when stress can be high, according to Reuters (here is the abstract).
Of the 38,602 babies in the current study, 197 were born to moms who used antidepressant throughout pregnancy. Another 820 stopped using the meds before pregnancy, while 543 used them only at certain points during pregnancy. Most women on medication during pregnancy, 71 percent, used a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) such as Paxi or Prozac.