BACKGROUND: Systematic data regarding long-term neurobehavioral effects of maternal antidepressant use during pregnancy are sparse. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of gestational exposure to antidepressants on later neurodevelopmental function.
METHODS: This study describes a cohort of mother-child dyads (44 mothers, 54 children) in which maternal depressive symptoms and medication exposures were prospectively collected across pregnancy and the postpartum period. Children age 6 to 17 were assessed using validated instruments across domains of childhood behavior and executive memory and functioning.
RESULTS: No associations were found between maternal use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy and atypical neurodevelopment of children. Borderline clinical or clinical ranges of internalizing symptoms were associated with exposure to a higher maternal depressive symptom burden during pregnancy compared with those in the normal range. Compared with age- and sex-matched controls, the SSRI-exposed group showed superior performance on executive function tasks; findings did not demonstrate elevated risk for abnormal neurodevelopment in children age 6 to 17 exposed to SSRIs in utero. Deviations from the norm were instead associated with higher in utero exposure to maternal depression burden.
CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the need for rigorous studies of long-term outcomes after fetal antidepressant exposure.