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Study: Fetal Exposure to SSRIs Alters Neurobehavioral Development

By October 3, 2011July 18th, 2019Dangerous Drugs

According to a new study on SSRIs (a class of medication that includes drugs like Paxil and Effexor), babies that are exposed to the drugs while still in utero appear to experience alterations to their neurobehavioral development. This is the result of a study that was published online in Neuropsychopharmacology.

The study shows that fetuses that were exposed to standard and high doses of SSRIs seemed to exhibit “disrupted emergence of quiet, non–rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep during the third trimester, characterized by continual bodily activity and, thus, poor inhibitory motor control during this sleep state near term.”

So far, it is not clear just how significant this information is; it may be able to help predict troubles in sleep patterns in children in the future according to Eduard J. Mulder, Ph.D., and colleagues from University Medical Centre, Utrecht, the Netherlands.

But another doctor doesn’t think that too much should be read into this information just yet.

Tim Oberlander, MD, FRCP, of the Child and Family Research Institute, University of British Columbia, says, “This is one step in a long series of human studies to figure out what is happening at a neurobehavioral, biologic and molecular level. At the macro level, it’s important to recognize that mother’s mental health is really the critical issue here and there are downstream effects of the mood disturbances themselves that need to be carefully considered.”

Oberlander wasn’t a part of this study.

When taken by pregnant women, SSRI medications like Paxil and Effexor have already proven to be dangerous for fetuses. Studies have shown that Paxil causes birth defects in children who are exposed to it while in utero. Some of those defects include oral clefts, cleft palate, PPHN, neural tube defects and heart defects. This new study just points out another potential danger to newborns exposed to the drugs, but more research needs to be conducted to verify this finding.