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Baby’s Exposed to SSRIs Before Birth Show Smaller Head Size at Birth

Filed March 6th, 2012 Laurie

Pregnant women taking certain antidepressants run the risk of giving birth to babies with reduced head growth, according to a new study. Researchers also discovered that even though drugs like Paxil and Prozac – in a group of drugs called selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – relieved depression in pregnant women, they were also associated with a higher risk of preterm birth in the study. However, women who opted not to be treated for their depression at all appeared to suffer harsh consequences, too: women taking had babies with smaller body and head growth.

“If the depression is untreated, it affected the whole body; but if the mother used SSRIs, the head growth of the fetus was affected,” said lead researcher Hanan El Marroun, a postdoctorate fellow in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at Sophia Children’s Hospital and Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. “This may mean that smaller head growth is not explained by depression, but by the SSRIs.”

El Marroun said that information suggests that an imbalance in the brain’s serotonin could be harmful to infants’ developing brains. Seratonin is a chemical that helps the brain send signals from one area to another.
She also said doctors could be prescribing SSRIs too often, and because depression doesn’t always have to be treated with medication, physicians should consider other options for treating it first.

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