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You Can Keep Taking Your Antidepressants during Pregnancy

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Jul 17, 2017

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On the heels of a week full of mental health feel-good news, this comes at the right time: You can continue caring for your mental health during pregnancy without worrying you’re harming your still-developing baby. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have ruled out any statistically significant risk of intellectual disability in children born to mothers treated with antidepressants during pregnancy.

Commonly diagnosed in childhood, intellectual disabilities are characterized by major limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. No treatments exist, and these disabilities are associated with substantial health care costs.

The study examined the risk of intellectual disabilities in a population-based cohort of 179,000 children born in Sweden in 2006 and 2007. Approximately 4,000 of those children were exposed to antidepressants and other psychotropic medications during pregnancy. The researchers compared the risk in these children with a subsample of 23,551 children whose mothers were diagnosed with depression or anxiety prior to childbirth but were not taking antidepressants while pregnant.

Intellectual disabilities were diagnosed in 0.9% of exposed children and 0.5% of unexposed children. After adjusting for potential confounders, including parental age, the risk of intellectual disabilities after exposure to antidepressant medication was not statistically significant in either the full-population sample or in the sub-sample of women with a history of depression.

“The study did not find a robust association between ID and maternal antidepressant medication during pregnancy,” said the study’s senior author Sven Sandin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The researchers note that while the study was conducted in Sweden, the findings are applicable in most countries where antidepressants are prescribed for depression treatment.

“Our study provides more information for clinicians to evaluate the risks in pregnant women taking antidepressants,” said co-author Abraham Reichenberg, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “It should be factored into other considerations such as the increased risk for the mother if not medicated, the drug’s side effects, and other medical conditions.”

The Karolinska Institute in Sweden, Dalhousie University in Canada, and the University of Haifa in Israel contributed to this study.

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Written By Lila Sahija

Lila reports on health and science news for The Swaddle. She has loved biology ever since she dissected her first frog in eighth grade, and now has a keen interest in examining human behavior. She also loves animals and takes at least one adventure a year through rural India. Oh, and she bakes a mean German coffee cake.

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