THE QUESTION How might an unborn child’s development be affected if the mother takes antidepressants during pregnancy?
THIS STUDY involved 7,696 pregnant women, most of them 27 to 30 years old. Of the 669 women in the group who had symptoms of depression, 570 women took no antidepressants, and 99 took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants. During pregnancy, those in the SSRI group had fewer depressive symptoms than the other 570 women. All participants in the study had periodic sonograms to measure fetal growth, including body weight and head size, which is considered an indicator of brain development. Among the women with untreated depression, fetal growth overall was slower compared with the fetuses of all other study participants. Among women who took SSRIs, fetal weight gain was not different but head sizes were the smallest, on average; their babies also were twice as likely to be born prematurely. No link was found between symptoms of depression and below-normal birth weight.