Antidepressant use by pregnant women does not cause stillbirth


For women who experience severe depression during pregnancy, the options for treating the condition seem few. It has long been believed that taking any kind of antidepressant could cause significant harm, even death, to the baby.

However, a recent study found that pregnant women taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) did not have an increased risk of still birth or infant mortality.

Depression during pregnancy is common

“Depression during pregnancy is common with prevalences ranging between 7% and 19% in economically developed countries,” according to the report published in JAMA. “Maternal depression is associated with poorer pregnancy outcomes, including increased risk of preterm delivery, which in turn may cause neonatal morbidity and mortality.”

Not all good news

There are still consequences to taking the drugs: “Use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors during pregnancy has been associated with congenital anomalies, neonatal withdrawal syndrome, and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn. However, the risk of stillbirth and infant mortality when accounting for previous maternal psychiatric disease remains unknown.” Other side effects for the baby include post-birth withdrawal from the SSRIs and high blood pressure in the lungs.

SSRIs did not cause stillbirths

Researchers reviewed singleton births from 1996 to 2007. They cross-referenced prescription registries to see who was taking SSRIs. They adjusted results for variables including maternal characteristics and prior hospitalization for mental illness. The stillbirth and postneonatal deaths were no different between women on SSRIs and women who were significantly mentally ill. The drug did not cause the deaths.

Infant deaths related to other maternal conditions

“The present study of more than 1.6 million births suggests that SSRI use during pregnancy was not associated with increased risk of stillbirth, neonatal death, or postneonatal death. The increased rates of stillbirth and postneonatal mortality among infants exposed to an SSRI during pregnancy were explained by the severity of the underlying maternal psychiatric disease and unfavorable distribution of maternal characteristics such as cigarette smoking and advanced maternal age,” the report states.

Source: JAMA, MedicalNewsToday


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