Language Disorders In Children Associated With Mothers’ Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy


Children of mothers who took antidepressants twice or more during pregnancy have elevated risk of language or speech disorders, reports a recent study.

The children born to mothers who took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) twice or more during pregnancy were at 37 percent increased risk of speech disorders compared with children born to mothers who suffered psychiatric disorders and depression but weren't treated with antidepressants.

Researcher Alan Brown, who was involved in the study, said that the research is the first that dealt with the association between maternal antidepressant use and scholastic, language or speech disorders in children. He also noted that the large-scale study also offered the possibility of observing children aged 3 years and above.

SSRIs, such as citalopram, fluvoxamine, fluoxetine, escitalopram, paroxetine and sertraline, which are often used by pregnant women, enter the fetal circulation crossing the mother's placenta.

For the purpose of the study, the researchers surveyed about 845,345 single live births from 1996 to 2010. Among them were 15,596 mothers who bought SSRIs at least once prior to or during pregnancy, 9,537 mothers who were not treated with antidepressants but suffered from a psychiatric disorder a year before or during pregnancy and 31,207 healthy mothers who had no antidepressants.

The researchers studied the association between one, two or more number of maternal purchases of SSRIs and their risk outcomes since it was believed that more and long-term exposure to antidepressants would eventually result in increased risk of speech disorders in children. While no notable difference in terms of results could be obtained, statistical data remained relatively significant.

As a result, it was found that regardless of number of maternal purchases of antidepressants, children born to mothers who took medication as well as offspring of mothers with psychiatric disorder had language or speech disorders. However, no association between academic performance and motor disorders in children and maternal exposure to SSRIs was found in the study.

"The strengths of our study include the large, population based birth cohort, prospective data on SSRI purchases during pregnancy, a comparison group of mothers with depression who were not taking antidepressants, and an extensive national register database that included other known confounders," noted Dr. Brown.

Brown also noted that the severity of depression during pregnancy in mothers who took more antidepressant medication also has a role to play in offspring's speech and language skills and therefore needs further research.

The study is published online in JAMA Psychiatry on Oct, 12.

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