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Prenatal Exposure to SSRI Alters Fetal Brain Development

by Hannah Joy on April 10, 2018 at 1:21 PM
Prenatal Exposure to SSRI Alters Fetal Brain Development

Pregnant women are using more of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), an antidepressant drug that alters fetal brain development by increasing the volume of brain regions related to emotional processing.

SSRI use has increased among pregnant women, likely because of an increased awareness about the effects of untreated prenatal maternal depression on women and children.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are a class of drugs that are typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) and anxiety disorders.

Little is known about the association between prenatal SSRI and fetal neurodevelopment in humans but animal studies suggest perinatal SSRI exposure can alter brain circuitry and produce anxiety and depressive-like behaviors after adolescence.

About 98 infant-mother pairs (16 infants who had in utero SSRI exposure self-reported by mothers compared to 21 infants exposed in utero to untreated maternal depression and 61 other healthy infants without those exposures); data were collected between 2011 and 2016.

SSRIs and untreated maternal depression (exposures); estimates of gray matter volume and white matter structural connectivity using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

This was an observational study. Researchers were not intervening for purposes of the study and they cannot control natural differences that could explain the study findings.

The authors of this study were Jiook Cha, Ph.D., of Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York, and coauthors.

The results of this study show that increased volumes of the amygdala and insular cortex and increased white matter connection strength between the two regions was associated with infants who had prenatal SSRI exposure.

Participants were not randomly assigned; women who received an SSRI during pregnancy may have been more severely depressed than women with untreated prenatal maternal depression; and sociodemographic differences existed between the groups.

Source: Eurekalert
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