Antidepressant use by women during pregnancy has no effect on asthma in children born from patients, as long as the medicine is a newer form of drug, a new study has discovered.

Depression in mothers has been shown to be correlated with an increased risk of asthma in children. Antidepressants can also lead to some pulmonary difficulties, and growth reductions, in babies born from mothers who take the drugs.

Researchers in the new study wanted to know if antidepressant usage in utero could be tied to development of asthma. Health records from of all live babies born in Denmark between 1996 and 2007, who were born in single births, were examined as part of the study. Mothers with depression were identified, by code, through another set of records, and these were compared to prescription data obtained for those mothers who received antidepressants in the year before birth.

"Antidepressant use during pregnancy in general did not increase the risk of asthma in the offspring among women with depression, with the exception of use of older antidepressants," Xiaoqin Liu from Aarhus University in Denmark said.

Records of 733,685 children were examined in the study, including 84,683 youth with asthma. A total of 21,371 mothers were diagnosed with depression, of whom 8,895 consumed antidepressants.

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) were found to have the highest correlation to asthma, resulting in a 28 increase in risk. Developed in the early 1950's, they are among the earliest antidepressants ever developed. Although still considered effective today, they are now largely replaced by other medications which exhibit fewer side effects in patients.

The use of more modern antidepressants in utero was not found to have any effect on asthma risk in babies, the study concluded. Around 80 percent of the mothers in the study were prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a newer class of drugs.

One potential problem with the study is that TCAs are usually prescribed for patients with severe symptoms of depression, after other treatment methods fail. This could mean that greater levels of depression are resulting in higher risk of asthma, rather than the drug. When a condition could be misinterpreted as an effect of a drug being tested, the effect is called confounding.

"Maternal antidepressant use during pregnancy did not increase the risk of asthma except for use of older antidepressants. This finding could reflect confounding by the severity of maternal depression," the researchers concluded.

Examination of the role of in utero antidepressant consumption in childhood asthma was detailed in the journal Pediatrics.

Photo: Teza Harinaivo Ramiandrisoa  | Flickr

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