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6 March 2012
Preterm birth, smaller head size for infants exposed to antidepressants

The children of women taking common antidepressant drugs known as SSRIs during pregnancy tend to exhibit reduced fetal head growth and are more likely to be born preterm, according to a new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are prescribed to treat depression but knowledge about their potential effects on the unborn child is limited. This latest study, conducted by Hanan El Marroun, of Sophia Children's Hospital in the Netherlands, involved a relatively large sample size of around 8,000 pregnant women.

El Marroun found that the children of mothers using SSRIs had a more pronounced reduced head circumference growth than children of mothers with depressive symptoms not treated with SSRIs.

While fetal head circumference may predict behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders, El Marroun cautions that "we must be careful not to infer an association of SSRI use in pregnancy with future developmental problems."

Additionally, the study results suggest that children of mothers with depressive symptoms who did not use SSRIs were born after a slightly longer (on average one day) gestational period. The children of mothers who used SSRIs were born after a shorter gestational period and were twice as likely to be born preterm.

El Marroun cautions that while the results add to knowledge about the use and non-use of SSRIs, they are not conclusive. "More long-term drug safety studies are needed before evidence-based recommendations can be derived," she concludes.

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Source: Archives of General Psychiatry

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