Newer Antidepressants Can Harm Newborns

SSRIs may cause neurological problems the first few days of life, Finnish study finds

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TUESDAY, July 15, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Infants whose mothers take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during the late stages of pregnancy may suffer neurological problems during their first weeks of life.

So says a Finnish study in the July issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry.

SSRIs are often used to treat mental disorders such as depression, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder in pregnant women.

Previous studies found that when women take SSRIs during the third trimester of pregnancy, their babies may experience neurological symptoms such as irritability, constant crying, convulsions and eating and sleeping disorders.

This study included 40 pregnant women. Half of them were taking SSRIs during pregnancy and breast-feeding while the other 20 women were taking no psychoactive medications.

The researchers found no major differences in basic vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature) between the babies born to the two groups of women during the babies' first two months of life.

But they did find a fourfold difference in serotonin-related symptoms during the first four days of life between the SSRI group and the control group. Tremors, restlessness and rigidity were the most common symptoms in the group of babies born to mothers taking SSRIs.

There was a significant decline in such symptoms by the time those babies were 2 weeks old.

"In conclusion, we report increased risk for central nervous system serotonergic adverse effects during the first days of life in newborns of mothers taking the SSRIs citalopram or fluxetine during the third trimester of pregnancy," the authors write.

"Although these effects seem to subside quickly, they may expose the infants to more serious neonatal complications such as convulsions," they add.

More information

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SOURCES: The Archives of General Psychiatry, news release, July 14, 2003

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