While taking antidepressant medication during pregnancy is usually strongly discouraged by health professionals, a new study presented at the annual Pediatric Academic Societies’ meeting would tend to counteract this recommendation. Research shows that a child exposed to SSRIs antidepressants during pregnancy will have better cognitive performance than others twelve years later.
Indeed, contrary to what one might think, taking antidepressants during a pregnancy does not only have negative impacts on the unborn child. In the long run, this improves their cognitive performance, according to the new study, whose main interest resides in the fact that the impact of antidepressant use during pregnancy was assessed many years after the child was born. No study has gone so far into the kids’ lives.
Drs. Sarah Hutchison and Tim Oberlander evaluated the thinking and caring abilities of 51 pre-teens (creativity, concentration, self-control…), all of whom were followed as early as the 26th week of their mother’s pregnancy. As a result, researchers found, surprisingly, that children exposed to SSRIs during their mother’s pregnancy had better cognitive skills than those who had never been exposed to antidepressants. The results were the same six years after the birth of the subjects studied.
As previous studies have shown, taking SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy has resulted in children being more anxious than average. This abnormal anxiety was noted three and six years after birth. On the other hand, it had completely disappeared twelve years later.
“Not treating depression, even when it occurs during pregnancy, is not an option,” recalls Tim Oberland, before qualifying the results of his study: “the impact of prenatal exposure to anti-depressants is not a simple cause-and-effect relationship. When assessing the long-term impact of SSRI exposure before birth, the genes of the unborn child and, later, the family environment must be taken into account, two parameters that will also greatly influence its cognitive development “.
Specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors, commonly known as “SSRI antidepressants” or simply “SSRIs”, are antidepressants commonly used to treat a woman’s depression during pregnancy. They affect the level of serotonin in the brain, a chemical that plays a key role in regulating mood and attention. They are better known as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Luvox and Effexor.
Further research is needed to confirm these results, and scientists are currently studying a new cohort of 120 children using the same parameters.