IU study suggests no link between antidepressant use during pregnancy and health conditions in babies

There is less of a risk of neurodevelopmental problems in children’s whose mothers use antidepressant medicine than historically expected, a recent IU study found.

Women who take antidepressant medications in the early stages of pregnancy previously thought they would likely increase their chances of having a baby who suffers from autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or even reduced growth, according to a release. However, Brian D’Onofrio, professor in IU’s psychology department and leader of the study, found there were no increased risks for any of these conditions.

“To our knowledge, this is one of the strongest studies to show that exposure to antidepressants during early pregnancy is not associated with autism, ADHD or poor fetal growth when taking into account the factors that lead to medication use in the first place,” D’Onofrio said in the release.

IU completed this study in conjunction with the researchers at Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The researchers gathered information from more than 1.5 million births in Sweden from 1996 to 2012.

Other factors the researchers considered included Sweden’s antidepressant prescriptions for adults, the parents’ demographics, and autism and ADHD diagnoses in kids, according to the release.

Although the risks are reduced, D’Onofrio said it’s important for mothers to consider the decision of whether or not to use these medications while pregnant.

“Balancing the risks and benefits of using antidepressants during pregnancy is an extremely difficult decision that every woman should make in consultation with her doctor,” D’Onofrio said in the release. “However, this study suggests use of these medications while pregnant may be safer than previously thought.”


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