Should New Moms Take Anti-depressants?

Antidepressants during pregnancy do not appear to influence baby growth in first year

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Deciding whether to take medication while pregnant can be a tough decision. It becomes tougher when the risks and benefits are not always clear, such as with mental health medications.

A recent study looked at whether antidepressants or untreated depression appeared to make any difference to children in their first year.

The researchers did not find any differences in size or growth among the children born to women with and without depression, regardless of whether they were taking antidepressants.

"Attend all prenatal appointments."

The study, led by Katherine L. Wisner, MD, MS, a professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a doctor at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, studied the impact of antidepressants taken during pregnancy on the growth of the baby during its first year.

The study involved 174 women in three groups. One group of 97 women did not have clinical depression and did not take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) while pregnant.

SSRIs are one of the most common classes of antidepressants. Some common SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft).

Another group of 46 women had depression and took SSRIs during pregnancy, and then a third group of 31 women had major depression during pregnancy but did not take SSRIs.

The women were followed throughout their pregnancies, with follow-ups at 20, 30 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Then, after the babies were born, there were follow-ups when the babies were 2 weeks, 3 months, 6 months and 1 year old.

The researchers gathered data on the children's weight, length and head circumference. Both before and after making adjustments for any differences among the women's demographics, the researchers found no notable differences among the babies across all three groups.

Women who took SSRIs during pregnancy did not appear to have babies who weighed more or less, were longer or shorter, or had a smaller or larger head than any of the other women's babies.

"In utero exposure to major depression or SSRI antidepressants did not affect infant growth with respect to weight, length, or head circumference through 12 months of age," the researchers concluded.

The study is limited by its small size, but it still provides some evidence that SSRIs did not lead to growth problems in children if the mothers took the antidepressants during pregnancy.

The research is not clear on whether untreated depression in pregnant women can lead to health problems for babies.

The study was published March 20 in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The research was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

One author has received donations of light boxes from Uplift Technologies on a light therapy study. Another author has been on the advisory panel for Cyberonic, ImaRx Therapeutics, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Organon, Dey Pharmaceuticals and Venebio. No other conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 22, 2013
Last Updated:
August 16, 2013