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New studies show no long term effects of antidepressant use during pregnancy

The use of antidepressants during pregnancy has no long term neurodevelopmental or behavioural effects on the child, however they may be associated with an increased risk of postpartum haemorrhage, suggests the findings from three studies published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG).

Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems during pregnancy, with around 12% of women in the UK experiencing depression at some point during pregnancy and the postnatal period. The use of antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat depression during pregnancy has become increasingly common, however, it is unclear whether any increased risk to the fetus, and health problems for the woman or baby, can be attributed directly to these drugs or may be caused by other factors. The research published today examines the effects SSRI use on the health of both the mother and the long term development of the child.

A study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health looked at the effects of prenatal exposure to SSRIs on motor skill development at 3 years old in 51,404 children from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. In this cohort 159 mothers reported a prolonged use of SSRIs during pregnancy. Their children had a slight delay in the development of fine and gross motor skills compared to children unexposed during pregnancy. However, the authors of this paper acknowledge that the numbers are so small, no change in clinical practice is warranted.

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