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Use Of Antidepressant In Pregnancy Associated With Structural Changes In Infant Brain

Update Date: May 20, 2014 01:11 PM EDT

Children of depressed mothers treated with a group of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy are likely to develop Chiari type 1 malformations, according to a new study. 

However, researchers refrained doctors from changing their prescribing practices based on the results of the study. 

"Our results can be interpreted two ways," said Rebecca Knickmeyer, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry in the UNC School of Medicine and lead author of the study, in the press release. "Either SSRIs increase risk for Chiari type 1 malformations, or other factors associated with SSRI treatment during pregnancy, such as severity of depression itself, increase risk. Additional research into the effects of depression during pregnancy, with and without antidepressant treatment is urgently needed."

The study found that 18 percent of the children whose mothers took SSRIs during pregnancy had Chiari type 1 malformations, compared to 3 percent among children whose mothers had no history of depression. 

Further, according to the study, rate of Chiari type 1 malformations was highest in children whose mothers reported a family history of depression in addition to treatment with SSRIs during pregnancy. This particular finding is suggesting an important role of genes as well in the malformation.

"These results raise many interesting questions, and there are many things we still don't know," said study co-author Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH, associate professor of psychiatry in the UNC School of Medicine and director of UNC's Perinatal Psychiatry Program, in the press release.

"For example, we do not know how many of these children will go on to develop symptoms of Chiari type 1 malformations. What we do know is that untreated depression can be very harmful for women and their babies, and so we strongly encourage pregnant women who are being treated for depression to continue with their treatment," she said.

The study has been published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

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