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Taking Antipsychotics During Pregnancy Affects Health of Newborns

Update Date: Jun 02, 2014 02:07 PM EDT

During pregnancy, what women put into their bodies, ranging from foods to medicines can affect the fetus. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of taking antipsychotic medications during pregnancy. They reported that women who took these pills had an increased risk of requiring special care for their babies.

For this study, the Australian researchers from the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Center (MAPrc) and Monash University examined seven-years of data. The team found that women who took antipsychotic medications had a greater risk of giving birth to infants that needed special care. 43 percent of the babies born to women in the drug group had to be put in a Special Care Nursery (SCN) or a Neonatal intensive Care Unit (NICU). This rate is almost three times larger than the country's rate.

In the group of women who took antipsychotic medications, the majority of the babies were born health. However, 18 percent of them were premature, 37 percent of the infants had signs of respiratory distress and 15 percent exhibited signs of withdrawal symptoms.

"There's been little research on antipsychotic medication during pregnancy and if it affects babies. The lack of data has made it very difficult for clinicians to say anything conclusively on how safe it is for babies," Principal investigator, Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Director of MAPrc, said according to Medical Xpress. "This new research confirms that most babies are born healthy, but many experience neonatal problems such as respiratory distress."

The data for this study came from the National Register of Antipsychotic Medications in Pregnancy (NRAMP), which was started by the MAPrc back in 2005. At the beginning of the study, the researchers recruited 147 pregnant women who were taking antipsychotic medications. Interviews occurred every six weeks during pregnancy and after delivery until the infants turned one.

"The potentially harmful effects of taking an antipsychotic drug in pregnancy have to be balanced against the harm of untreated psychotic illness. The good news is we now know there are no clear associations with specific congenital abnormalities and these drugs," Professor Kulkarni said. "However clinicians should be particularly mindful of neonatal problems such as respiratory distress, so it's critical that Neonatal Intensive Care Units, or Special Care Nurseries are available for these babies."

The study was published in PLOS ONE.

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