Myrna Weissman, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and chief of the division of clinical and genetic epidemiology at New York State Psychiatric Institute, analyzed 76 depressed mothers and 135 offspring—aged 7 to 17—to compare which antidepressants taken by mothers would eventually lead to less psychiatric symptoms in offspring. Maternal participants were given either escitalopram, bupropion, or the combination of the two for 12 weeks. Offspring psychiatric symptoms were assessed prior to maternal initiation of therapy and at study endpoint.
Though maternal subjects in all three groups were able to achieve remission, escitalopram alone was found to be associated with statistically significant improvement in mothers' depression and subsequent improvements in offspring's psychiatric symptoms, whereas treatment with bupropion and combined bupropion and escitalopram therapy did not. In addition, mothers in the escitalopram cohort were more likely to report improvement in their ability to listen and talk to their children over the 12-weeks than mothers administered bupropion or combined therapy. Children of the escitolapram group reported their mother to be more caring after treatment.
These findings "highlight the importance of active treatment of depressed mothers, which may help them and their children," the researchers noted. "Personalizing the treatment of depressed mothers may be enhanced by assessing parental behavior and monitoring the impact on children.” The researchers concluded that antidepressants that also reduce symptoms of anxiety and irritability—like escitalopram—may be necessary to properly assess the impact of the parent’s remission on the well-being of their offspring.
(Photo Courtesey of National Institutes of Health)