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When your taking SSRIs, a popular class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin uptake inhibitors  and pregnant, the effects are noticeable in your babies brain as well. In  the journal of the American Medical Association, Pediatrics (JAMA) their study saw an increasing size in two areas of the babies brains, the amygdalae and insular cortices. These areas are involved in processing emotions and when you consider animal studies that mimic this impact you see .

The study has a limited number of participants, 16 babies of mom’s using SSI’s compared to the cohort of 82 non SSRI users, 21 of which have been diagnosed with depression. The researchers concluded that ,”The difference could result from the drug disrupting serotonin levels during brain development”. Not so fast……

New theories however are casting a doubt on this mechanism alone. In a 2017 paper,”The Effect of Serotonin-Targeting Antidepressants on Neurogenesis and Neuronal Maturation of the Hippocampus Mediated via 5-HT1A and 5-HT4 Receptors”, builds on the understanding that we are actually changing brain structures. There’s far more going on than just modulation of seratonin. With this in mind we still don’t know the full extent of the changes taking place in your babies brain.

To cast light on a more long term consideration, a human study this one, a Finnish study  done in 2016, the lead clinician Dr. Heli Malm evaluated  65,000 women and their children. Her findings are significant as the team found that adolescents exposed to SSRIs when pregnant were four times as likely to become depressed by age 15.

Untreated depression in pregnancy has serious risks for mother and baby. Stress and many other factors are significant when your growing your baby. There is no question that risk assessment or other medications or therapies should be considered carefully. Take the time to discuss this and other concerns with your health care provider.


Take aways:

Consider the benefits and risks of all drug use ESPECIALLY, if pregnant or considering a pregnancy

The effect of SSRI’s are long term so a short period of abstention is not adequate and can put you at risk 

Make certain to include other classes of medications and supplements in your evaluation of Risk/Benefits

Then do a overview of your lifestyle, including the obvious smoking, alcohol use and the many other considerations to address your pregnancy

Consult with your health care provider and bring this information to their attention