Child psychiatric disorders tied to in utero antidepressant exposure

(Reuters Health) – Antidepressant use during pregnancy is tied to an increased risk of psychiatric illnesses, especially mood disorders, in children, according to a new study.

The overall risk is low, though. Only about 3 percent of the nearly 905,383 children in the study were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder by age 16.

But compared to the children of women who took antidepressants before pregnancy but not during, kids whose mothers continued taking the medications in pregnancy were 27 percent more likely to be diagnosed with mood, anxiety, behavioral or autism spectrum disorders.

Lead author Xiaoqin Liu, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Register-based Research at Aarhus University in Denmark, said the study is the first to look at a wide range of psychiatric disorders, instead of a single psychiatric illness, among children exposed to antidepressants in utero.

The results are in line with some past research, but conflict with other studies, Liu noted. This could be due to differences in study population and sample size, or alternatively, the potential association is modest, he said.

“We would like to stress that our study does not suggest or support that women with depression discontinue medication during pregnancy,” he told Reuters Health by email.

Some past research has also found that the children of women with untreated depression during pregnancy have a higher risk of psychiatric disorders and other health issues, raising the question of how much of a child’s risk is tied to the mother’s underlying mental illness and how much to the medications she takes to treat it.

Liu’s team used birth and health registries to follow children born in Denmark between 1998 and 2012 until July 2014, for a maximum of about 16 years of follow-up. They found that almost twice as many children, or 14.5 percent, were diagnosed with a psychiatric illness if their mother began antidepressants during pregnancy compared with 8 percent whose mothers never used these medications.

The incidence of psychiatric disorders in children whose mothers started using antidepressants during pregnancy was 14.5 percent, among those whose mothers continued prior use of the medications during pregnancy it was 13.6 percent, and when mothers discontinued the medications before pregnancy, it was 11.5 percent.

Overall, the risk of psychiatric disorders in children born to mothers who began using antidepressants during pregnancy was 56 percent higher compared to…

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