There have been several studies examining the health risks to babies when moms-to-be take anti-depressants during pregnancy. Research is showing that many antidepressants, especially the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and older medications, are generally safe. Birth defects and other problems are possible. But the risk is very low.
One concern pregnant women have had is; will taking anti-depressants harm my baby’s intellectual, neurological and social development development?
Recently, in a first-of its kind study, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found a slight elevated risk of intellectual disability (ID) in children born to mothers treated with antidepressants, but the risk was not statistically significant and is likely due to other factors, including parental age and the parents' psychiatric history.
While other studies have examined the risk of autism in mother's who took antidepressants during pregnancy, this is the first study to examine the risk of ID in this population.
What is intellectual disability? According to the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behavior, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 18. The term intellectual disability covers the same population of individuals who were diagnosed previously with mental retardation. It’s now the preferred term of use.
For the study, researchers examined the risk of ID in 179,000 children born in Sweden in 2006 and 2007. Approximately 4,000 of those children were exposed to antidepressants and other psychotropic medications during pregnancy. The researchers compared the risk in these children with a subsample of 23,551children whose mothers were diagnosed with depression or anxiety prior to childbirth but did not use antidepressants during pregnancy.
The results showed that the risk of ID after exposure to antidepressant medication was not much different between both groups. ID was diagnosed in about 0.9% of exposed children and 0.5% of unexposed children.
"Our study provides more information for clinicians to evaluate the risks in pregnant women taking antidepressants," said co-author Abraham Reichenberg, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "It should be factored into other considerations such as the increased risk for the mother if not medicated, the drug's side effects, and other medical conditions."
The study will be published online in JAMA Psychiatry.
Webmd.com makes some good points about pregnancy and anti-depressants and offers tips for mothers-to-be that suffer from depression. Both psychiatric experts and ob-gyn experts agree that if you have mild depression and have been symptom-free for at least six months, you may be able to stop using antidepressants under a doctor’s supervision before getting pregnant or while you are pregnant. Psychotherapy, along with lifestyle measures, may be all that you need to manage your depression. You may be able to get through your pregnancy without antidepressants if you:
But, the experts point out, it will be better for both you and your baby to stay on antidepressants while pregnant if any of the following is true:
Few, if any, medications are considered absolutely safe during pregnancy. Research findings on the effects of antidepressants on the growing baby are mixed and inconclusive. One study may find a particular antidepressant causes one type of risk. Another one, though, may find that it doesn’t. Also, the risks to the baby may be different depending on the type of antidepressant and when in the pregnancy it is taken. Regardless, most risks found by researchers have been low.