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For depressed moms, taking SSRIs may impact baby's growth

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Babies whose mothers are depressed while they are pregnant have a greater chance of growing more slowly than other babies. The head and body may show retarded growth patterns. This new study also shows that antidepressants increase the risk of slow growth for the baby’s brain.

Pregnant women who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which are a popular type of antidepressant may have fewer depressive symptoms, but their babies do not grow at a healthy rate.

Many women experience a range of emotions during pregnancy. For some women who were emotionally vulnerable to begin with, antidepressants may seem like one way to control their feelings. However, these antidepressants which were once thought safe to use, may not be.

“SSRIs can cross the placenta and disrupt the serotonin balance. Serotonin is important for the growth of the developing brain. Animal testing has already shown that this disruption can have an adverse effect on the development of the brain,” said Dr. Hanan Marroun, researcher at Erasmus MC-Sophia Children’s hospital.

The researchers tracked the development of three groups of babies through ultrasound. They found that babies whose mothers were not depressed grew faster than babies of depressed mothers. They also found that babies whose mothers took SSRIs had heads that grew more slowly than their bodies which grew at a normal rate.

“The fetus has a mechanism that ensures that the development of the brain is not disrupted under poorer conditions. If, for example, there is a shortage of nutrition or oxygen, the skin and liver are affected first, sparing the brain. The fact that exposure to SSRIs affects the growth of the head and not the body means that SSRIs are specifically harmful to the developing brain,” concluded Dr. Marroun.

Source: Archives of General Psychiatry, MedicalNewsToday

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