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Mother's Use of Antidepressant May Carry Risks for Newborn

In utero SSRI exposure spikes risk of preterm birth, shorter gestation, neonatal intensive care

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Newborns who have been exposed in utero to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) taken by their mothers are at higher risk for shorter gestational age, preterm delivery and admission to a neonatal intensive care unit, according to a study in the October Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Najaaraq Lund, M.D., of the Bandim Health Project in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, and colleagues assembled data on 329 pregnant women who had taken SSRIs for depression, 4,902 with psychiatric history but no SSRI use, and 51,770 with no psychiatric history -- all of whom gave birth at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark between 1989 and 2006. The researchers compared the newborns for birth weight, gestational age, head circumference, five-minute Apgar score, and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.

The researchers found that the SSRI-exposed newborns had a gestational age five days shorter than infants of women with no psychiatric history and 3.8 days shorter than infants of women with a psychiatric history. The SSRI-exposed newborns were at increased risk for preterm birth (odds ratio, 2.0), admission to the neonatal intensive care unit (odds ratio, 2.4), and having five-minute Apgar scores of less than eight (odds ratio, 4.4).

"Exposure to SSRIs during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery, a low five-minute Apgar score, and neonatal intensive care unit admission, which was not explained by lower Apgar scores or gestational age," the authors conclude. "The study justifies increased awareness to the possible effects of intrauterine exposure to antidepressants."

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