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The Risk of Taking Antidepressants During Pregnancy

November 30, 2016
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A new study suggests that there may be a correlation between pregnant women taking antidepressants and the offspring’s risk of developing a speech or language disorder later in life. Around 3 to 10 percent of expectant mothers in the US have been found to use antidepressants. Certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro, Celexa, and Zoloft, which are commonly prescribed to women who are experiencing depression during their pregnancies, are known to cross into the placenta and enter the blood stream of the fetus. A study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry performed by Dr. Alan Brown, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, examined the records of live births between 1996 and 2012 in Finland to find any correlations between antidepressants taken during pregnancy and the offspring developing speech impediments. The risk of developing a speech or language disorder for most children of women who had not taken antidepressants was about one percent. Whereas, for those whose mother did take an antidepressant the number was 1.37 percent. This means that mothers who take SSRIs during pregnancy have a 37 percent greater chancing of their child developing a speech disorder. Although this risk is considered low, the increased risk that these drugs pose for unborn children is still a public health burden—and an expensive one at that. “I don’t think individuals have to worry about this,” says Brown. “But, I do think at the population level, it makes a very big difference.” Disorders like dyslexia have the potential to affect a child’s ability to learn and function later in life as an adult. They can require speech language therapy sessions for years which can inhibit learning and the ability to obtain employment. Links to developing autism have also been found in research on antidepressant use during pregnancy, along with neonatal adaptation syndrome. However, for women suffering from depression, cutting off all use of antidepressants is not a simple, or advisable, task. Psychotherapy has been found to be as effective as antidepressants, but this only for moderate forms of depression. The forms of depression more severe, such as suicidal depression and psychotic depression have dangerous risks that could outweigh the benefits of quitting antidepressants entirely.  
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