Maternal Antidepressant Use and Offspring Disability: What's the Link?

No significant association for use of antidepressant in pregnancy, child's intellectual disability
No significant association for use of antidepressant in pregnancy, child's intellectual disability

HealthDay News — There is an increased risk of intellectual disability in children whose mothers take antidepressants while pregnant, but the association appears to be related to factors other than the medication use itself, according to a study published online July 12 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Researchers tracked data on 179,007 children born in Sweden in 2006 and 2007, including 3,982 whose mothers took antidepressants during pregnancy. The researchers defined intellectual disability as "major limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior."

Intellectual disability was diagnosed in 0.9% of children whose mothers took antidepressants during pregnancy and in 0.5% of children not exposed to antidepressants in the womb. After adjusting for other potential confounders, the study authors concluded that the risk of intellectual disability among children whose mothers take antidepressants during pregnancy is not statistically significant and is likely due to other factors, such as parental age and the parents' psychiatric history. 

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"Our study provides more information for clinicians to evaluate the risks in pregnant women taking antidepressants," study coauthor Abraham Reichenberg, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, said a Mount Sinai news release. "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."

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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