Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Study Assesses Effects of SSRI Exposure on Fetus

Psychiatrists treating depression in pregnant women face a difficult choice: use medications to reduce the mother’s symptoms or avoid them so as not to expose the fetus to the drugs. Neither are ideal options because maternal depression may negatively influence fetal development as much as medication exposure. Now researchers from the University of British Columbia and Harvard University tested the infants of three sets of mothers: those with depression but not treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs); those with depression who were taking SSRIs; and those were not depressed and not taking an SSRI, who served as controls.

The control infants succeeded in discriminating vowel sounds at six months but not at 10 months, as expected. But babies exposed to SSRIs in the womb could not distinguish the sounds at either age. Those born to depressed but untreated mothers succeeded at 10 months instead of six months. "What is unknown at this time, and of key clinical importance, is whether these small perturbations in critical period timing of core perceptual components of language acquisition have a lasting impact,” wrote the authors online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Early Edition.

To read more about SSRIs and pregnancy, see Psychiatric News here and the American Journal of Psychiatry here.

(Image: Werner Heiber/


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