Taking Antidepressants During Pregnancy May Lead to Fetal Brain Changes

From TIME - April 9, 2018

Theres a growing and confusing group of studies looking at the effect of anti-depressants during pregnancy. Some research suggests that the drugs are linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, while other studies focus on the implications for the developing baby (including possible birth defects and an increased risk of autism), while other studies questioned such associations. So its not surprising that doctors and expectant moms struggle with weighing the benefits of treating the mothers depression with an incomplete understanding of the risks involved.

In the latest study to address the subject, researchers led by Claudia Lugo-Candelas, a post-doctoral research fellow at Columbia University, added to that knowledge by taking pictures of the brains of 98 babies about a month after they were born. Some of the infants mothers had depression, and were being treated with anti-depressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), while others with depression were not treated. A group of mothers who were not affected by depression were also involved.

In the study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, among the mother-baby pairings, babies whose moms were taking SSRIs showed greater brain volumes in areas associated with emotions and processing emotions, as well as higher connections between these regions, compared to babies whose mothers were either not treated for their depression or were not experiencing depression.

The brain regions involved, called the amygdala and insular cortex, are generally the hub of the strongest feelings, including fear and motivation, and integrally involved in mood. While its not clear what having more robust volumes of cells and connections in this area means, previous studies might provide some clues.


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