Antidepressants During Pregnancy Can Adversely Affect The Mental Health Of Your Child

Most of us are engulfed by stress due to several factors in our lives. Sadly, many slip into depression as well. It is important to pay equal attention to our mental health

Antidepressants have been used increasingly for many years now. Around two to eight percent of pregnant women use antidepressants. The researchers from the National Centre for Register-based Research at Aarhus BSS revealed that using antidepressants during pregnancy increased. Having said this, antidepressants during pregnancy have an adverse effect on the mental health of kids.

Effects of antidepressants

Led by Xiaoqin Liu, the researchers applied register-based research to the study of 905,383 children born between 1998 and 2012 with the aim of exploring the possible adverse effects of the mother’s use of antidepressants during her pregnancy. Out of 905,383 children, 32,400 children developed a psychiatric disorder later in life. Some of the children were born to mothers who were administered antidepressants during their pregnancy, and there were others who had not been exposed to medication.

Xiaoqin Liu, the lead author of the article which got published in BMJ-British Medical Journal, says.  “When we look at children born to mothers who discontinued and continued antidepressant treatment during pregnancy, we can see an increased risk of developing a psychiatric disorder if the mothers continued antidepressant treatment while pregnant.”

During the research, the children were divided into four groups based on the mother’s use of antidepressants before and during pregnancy. The children in group 1 were not exposed to antidepressants in the womb. The mothers in group 2 were taking antidepressants during pregnancy. In group 3, the mothers were using antidepressants both before and during the pregnancy. And group 4 consisted of mothers who were new users of antidepressants and had started taking the medication during the pregnancy.

The result of the study showed an increased number of children with psychiatric disorders in the group in which the mothers used antidepressants during their pregnancy. Approximately twice as many children were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder in group 4 (14.5%) than in group 1 (8%). In groups 2 and 3, 11.5% and 13.6% were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder at age 16 years.

Heritability and mental health of kids

During the analysis, the researchers took heritability into account. They believed that heredity also plays an important role in determining psychiatric disorders and being exposed to antidepressants in the womb is not the only deciding factor.

Trine Munk-Olsen, one of the researchers, said, “We chose to conduct the study on the assumption that psychiatric disorders are highly heritable. For this reason, we wanted to show that is too narrow if you only look at autism, which is what many previous studies have done. If heritability plays a part, other psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD-like symptoms would also appear in the data.”

The study shows that the increase not only included autism but also other psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It now becomes clear that the mother’s underlying psychiatric disorder matters has links to the child’s mental health development later in life. At the same time, we cannot rule out the fact that the use of antidepressants increases the risk of psychiatric diseases in the child.

Trine Munk-Olsen adds, “Our research shows that medication seems to increase the risk, but that heritability also plays a part’” She indicated that mothers who suffer from the most severe forms of depression may be required to take medication during their pregnancy.

The researchers aim to increase the focus on the facts that doctors can use to advise women on the use of antidepressants both before and after their pregnancy. Some women might also be able to discontinue treatment with the medication during pregnancy. However, the researchers also agree that some women need medication so that the consequences of untreated depression are tackled and its effects do not harm both mother and child.

The most important message is that we ensure and safeguard the mental well-being of pregnant women, and for some women, this involves the use of antidepressants.

Trine Munk-Olsen says, “These women should not feel guilty about taking antidepressants. Even though there is an increased risk of the child developing a psychiatric disorder later in life, our research shows that we cannot blame medication alone. Heritability also plays a part.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Aarhus University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Xiaoqin Liu, Esben Agerbo, Katja G Ingstrup, Katherine Musliner, Samantha Meltzer-Brody, Veerle Bergink, Trine Munk-Olsen. Antidepressant use during pregnancy and psychiatric disorders in offspring: Danish nationwide register-based cohort study. BMJ, 2017; j3668 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.j3668

Page Citation:

Aarhus University. “Using antidepressants during pregnancy may affect your child’s mental health.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2017. <>.

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