Pregnant women who take a variety of antidepressants may be doing serious harm to their babies’ developing nervous system and GI tract, says a new study.
Researchers from New York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital speculate that serotonin reuptake inhibitors — a class of antidepressants that eases anxiety — cause abnormalities in the gut. That’s especially dangerous in developing babies.
“Serotonin plays a critical role in nervous system development,” says Kara Gross Margolis, the study author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia. “You need normal amounts of serotonin in your gut for your nervous system and intestinal lining to develop correctly.”
When levels go out of whack, the baby suffers.
What’s worse, the effects can be immediate. Margolis says that a woman can take an SSRI for years leading up to a pregnancy and then have a healthy pregnancy once she’s off it. But if she’s on an SSRI for even just a little bit while pregnant, it’s risky.
Margolis’ team only tested one drug, Fluoxetine, but the research suggests the results would be the same no matter the brand of SSRI, she said.
SSRIs in pregnancy have previously been linked to mental health problems, birth defects, and autism. Up to 14% of pregnant women take antidepressants, the New York Times wrote in September.
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