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Birth Outcomes Following Prenatal Exposure to Antidepressants

Kimberly H. Pearson, M.D.; Ruta M. Nonacs, M.D., Ph.D.; Adele C. Viguera, M.D., M.P.H.; Vicki L. Heller, M.D.; Laura F. Petrillo, M.D.; Mina Brandes, M.D.; John Hennen, M.D.†; and Lee S. Cohen, M.D.


Background: Antidepressant use during pregnancy and the peripartum period is common despite the absence of clear evidence-based guidelines to direct clinical use of these compounds.

Method: We compared obstetrical and neonatal outcomes as recorded in medical records among 84 pregnant women with major depressive or anxiety disorders (DSM-IV criteria) who took antidepressants during pregnancy (cases) versus a 2:1 age- and parity-matched control group of 168 unexposed women. Women in the case group had sought psychiatric consultation regarding the use of medication from the Perinatal and Reproductive Psychiatry Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital between 1996 and 2000.

Results: There were no significant differences among cases versus controls and their offspring, with respect to various neonatal and obstetrical outcomes, including gestational age and weight, although 1-minute Apgar scores were slightly lower in exposed infants. Admissions to the special care nursery were more frequent, but briefer and based on relatively minor indications, among case newborns. There were no significant differences in neonatal outcomes between exposures to serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) and tricyclic (TCA) antidepressants.

Conclusion: This retrospective cohort study found no evidence of major increases in risk of adverse obstetrical or neonatal outcomes following prenatal exposure to antidepressants, nor between SRIs and TCAs. Larger, prospective studies with specific neurobehavioral measures are required to resolve current uncertainties about safe and effective use of antidepressants by pregnant women.

(J Clin Psychiatry 2007;68:1284-1289)


Received Feb. 9, 2007; accepted May 29, 2007. From the Perinatal and Reproductive Psychiatry Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (Drs. Pearson, Nonacs, Viguera, Petrillo, and Cohen); the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass. (Dr. Heller); the Department of Psychiatry, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Md. (Dr. Brandes); and the Department of Psychiatry, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass. (Dr. Hennen).

†Deceased.

Presented at the New Research Section, 154th annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, New Orleans, La., May 2001.

Financial disclosure appears at the end of the article.

Corresponding author and reprints: Kimberly H. Pearson, M.D., Perinatal and Reproductive Psychiatry Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, 185 Cambridge St., 2nd floor, Boston, MA 02114 (e-mail: khpearson@partners.org).