In utero antidepressant exposure linked to developmental vulnerability


A new study adds to previous research on the impact of exposure in utero to antidepressants.

Many studies have examined the impact of in utero exposure on child development. A new study in Pediatrics indicates that in utero exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or selective serotonin norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs) has ties to developmental vulnerability.1

Investigators used linkable administrative data from Manitoba, Canada, to create a population-based cohort of 266,479 mother-child pairs. From the cohort, the created a sample of 13,818 mothers who had a mood or anxiety disorders diagnosis between 90 days before conception, which split into 2055 exposed women who had 2 or more SSRI or SNRI dispensations in their pregnancy and 10,017 mothers who were unexposed and had no dispensations of either SSRI or SNRI during pregnancy. Researchers used the Early Development Instrument (EDI) to assess the developmental health in children in kindergarten.

Among the 3048 children who met inclusion criteria and had an EDI, 21.43% of children in the exposed group were found to be vulnerable on 2 or more domains versus 16.16% of children in the unexposed group. Additionally, children who were in the exposed group had a significant risk of being vulnerable in cognition and/or language.

The researchers said that more research was needed to replicate the results from their study. They also said that early interventions should occur to children who were exposed to SSRIs or SSNRs during pregnancy to decrease these challenges.


1.    Singal D, Chateau D, Struck S, et al. In utero antidepressants and neurodevelopmental outcomes in kindergarteners. Pediatrics. 2020;145(5):e20191157. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-1157

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