The use of certain antidepressants during pregnancy may be linked to speech and language disorders in children, US researchers have found.
According to the latest study, women who purchase two or more prescriptions for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy may be more likely to have children with speech and language disorders.
Dr Alan Brown of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Mailman School of Public Health in New York, who led the research team, said further studies are needed before drawing conclusions about the clinical implications of this observational study.
Dr. Brown and team sought to investigate how maternal SSRI use might influence the risk of speech, language, motor, and scholastic disorders in offspring, saying previous studies had not addressed these disorders.
They used national registries in Finland to identify and analyse the data of almost 60,000 singleton children born between 1996-2010 and their mothers, with the children followed from birth until the age of 14 years.
The researchers divided the children into three groups: an SSRI-exposed group including children whose mothers had been diagnosed with a depression-related disorder and had purchased SSRI prescriptions during pregnancy; an unmedicated group including children whose mothers had been diagnosed with a depression-related disorder but had not purchased SSRI prescriptions during pregnancy and an unexposed group – children whose mothers had not been diagnosed with a depression-related disorder and had no history of purchasing SSRI prescriptions.
Overall, compared with infants in the unexposed group, those in the SSRI-exposed group and the unmedicated group were found to be at increased risk of a speech disorder, language disorder, or both.
A stronger link was found for offspring whose mothers purchased more SSRIs during pregnancy, the researchers noted; they determined that infants whose mothers had purchased at least two SSRI prescriptions during pregnancy were found to be at 37 percent and 63 percent greater risk of speech and language disorders than infants in the unmedicated and unexposed groups, respectively. No differences in the risk of motor and scholastic disorders between the SSRI-exposed group and the unmedicated group were seen.
"We believe that our finding about children of mothers who purchased at least two SSRI prescriptions during pregnancy is particularly meaningful because these women are more likely to have taken these medications, and more likely to have been exposed for a longer period and to larger amounts of the SSRI in pregnancy, compared to women who filled only one prescription,” Dr Brown commented.
One in 10 Americans aged 12 and older use some form of antidepressant medication, and SSRIs are among the most common. Concerns have previously been raised about the use of SSRIs during pregnancy, especially as the drugs can cross the placenta and enter the circulation of the fetus.