Antidepressant use in pregnancy and neonatal outcomes

By Julie Griffiths on 16 March 2018 Neonatal Care Postnatal Depression Maternal Mental health

Women taking antidepressants during pregnancy were more likely to have babies who required neonatal unit admission, a study has found.

The results of the research into neonatal outcome following maternal use of antidepressants were presented to delegates at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s annual conference in Glasgow this week (13-15 March).

Key findings included a higher incidence of neonatal unit admissions (13.53%) following their use. There was also a higher incidence of premature births (10.63%) and low birthweights (9.66%).

Stillbirths were also twice as likely among those using antidepressants at 0.48% compared to 0.24% for those not on antidepressants.

The study also found that 65% of babies with low birthweight, born to mothers taking antidepressants, were also exposed to maternal smoking.

The research showed that pregnant women with a history of depression were twice as likely to smoke – 37.9% of pregnant women with history of depression are known to be cigarette smokers compared to 18.5% of those with no known mental health condition.

This study, which included 3894 women who gave birth between 1 January and 31 December 2016, analysed singleton pregnancies at Cwm Taf University Health Board.

It found that nearly a quarter (23.5%) of pregnant women were identified as having a mental health condition at the time of antenatal booking. Under a fifth (16.4%) had a known history of depression and, of them, 33% took antidepressants during pregnancy.

The research concluded that, as babies born to mothers on antidepressants during pregnancy are more likely to be premature, have low birthweight and be admitted to the neonatal unit, identification and treatment during the perinatal period is crucial.

The news comes after the latest confidential inquiry from MBRRACE-UK shows suicide remains a leading cause of maternal death.