What Is the Effect Of Prenatal Exposure To SSRIs?

Marte Handal PhD Division of Epidemiology Norwegian Institute of Public Health Oslo, Norway MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Marte Handal PhD
Division of Epidemiology
Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Oslo, Norway 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Handal: The prevalence of depression during pregnancy is estimated to be as high as between 7 and 15%. It is well understood that untreated maternal depression may be harmful to both the mother and the child. When medical treatment of pregnant women is necessary, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is the most common treatment. However, limited information is available on the potential effect of prenatal exposure to SSRIs on the child’s motor development.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Handal: We did find a week association between prolonged maternal use of SSRIs during pregnancy and delayed motor development in the child even after we had taken the mothers history of depression and her symptoms of anxiety and depression during and after pregnancy into account. However, only a few children were in the least developed category, corresponding to clinical motor delay, indicating that clinical importance is limited.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Handal: The results of our study should not lead clinicians to be reluctant to initiate or continue antidepressant treatment in pregnant women who are in need of such treatment.

Pregnant women with depression do not need to worry about their children’s motor development if they are advised by their doctors to use SSRIs during pregnancy.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Handal: It will be important to replicate this finding in other populations because most previous studies have focused on motor development at an earlier age than we did in this study. Also to do further studies to explore if the week association we observed at three years of age will still be there in studies of older children.


BJOG. 2015 Sep 15. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.13582. [Epub ahead of print]

Motor development in children prenatally exposed to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: a large population-based pregnancy cohort study.

Handal M1, Skurtveit S1,2, Furu K1, Hernandez-Diaz S3, Skovlund E1, Nystad W1, Selmer R1.

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Marte Handal PhD (2015). What Is the Effect Of Prenatal Exposure To SSRIs? 

Last Updated on October 2, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD