Pregnancy Antidepressant Side Effects Linked to Speech Problems: Study

New research suggests that if pregnant women use common antidepressants, it may impact the language development for their baby, adding to the mounting concerns associated with the side effects of antidepressants for pregnant women.  

In a study published online by the Proceedings the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on October 8, researchers focused on depression during pregnancy and the use of popular antidepressants like Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Celexa and Lexapro.

The research was lead by Janet Werker of the University of Columbia and Takao Hensch of Harvard, who found that antidepressants that were part of a class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) may affect language development for infants exposed to the drugs prenatally.

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Researchers focused on three groups of pregnant women; women depressed but not taking SSRIs, women depressed and taking SSRIs and women with little or no depression whatsoever and on no medication. They then performed various auditory tests during 36 weeks of gestation; after birth, at six months, and again at ten months of age, measuring heart rate and eye movement to determine their language discrimination abilities.

Recognizing Native Language Early Not Always A Good Thing

According to the findings, babies prenatally exposed to SSRI antidepressants could recognize their native language at 36 weeks of gestation, six months and ten months of age. The babies experienced an acceleration in language development, which researchers warn is not a good outcome.

Early language discrimination affects a child’s natural language development process, which may have more profound effects later in life.

The study also found infants whose mothers were depressed, but not treated with antidepressants, were able to discriminate language at ten months of age but not at six. This suggest that depression without the treatment of antidepressants may lead to developmental delays in infants.

Prenatal depression and antidepressant drug use during pregnancy significantly affect an infant’s developmental milestones and language development, the researchers concluded.

Concerns Over Antidepressants and Birth Defects

Concerns about the risk of health problems for infants whose mothers used SSRIs antidepressants during pregnancy has been increasing. Recent studies have found many serious side effects, such as the development of autism, potential seizure problems and delay of infant development milestones, such as sitting and walking are affected by antidepressant use during pregnancy.

Use of SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy have also been linked to an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN), which is a serious respiratory disorder that may cause insufficient blood flow to the lungs, leading to serious and potentially life-threatening problems.

Pregnancy side effects of antidepressants have also been associated with a risk of other birth defects and malformations for the infant, such as septal heart defects, skull malformations, neural tube defects, abdominal defects, spina bifida and other problems.

In recent years, a growing number of Zoloft lawsuits have been filed in courts throughout the United States on behalf of children born with defects and malformations after exposure to the medication during pregnancy. The complaints allege that Pfizer, the drug manufacturer, failed to adequately research the risks associated with use of the antidepressant during pregnancy, or provide proper warnings to women about the risk of becoming pregnant while using the medication.

Potential side effects of Zoloft for unborn children have been reported to occur when the drug is taken as early as the first trimester, a time when many women do not even realize they are pregnant.

2 Comments

  • AlondraFebruary 16, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    I took Zoloft while breastfeeding and I was told it was safe. My son is now seven years old and he has trouble speaking and reading.

  • RebeccaSeptember 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    I was encouraged to continue taking zoloft for PND while pregnant with my daughter who is now 8. I was only took zoloft for the first trimester but after I knew I was pregnant I stopped. I was also encouraged to continue taking it while breastfeeding which I did. My daughter, 3rd of 4 has processing problems and other learning difficulties which don't fit into any mould. She has had no signif[Show More]I was encouraged to continue taking zoloft for PND while pregnant with my daughter who is now 8. I was only took zoloft for the first trimester but after I knew I was pregnant I stopped. I was also encouraged to continue taking it while breastfeeding which I did. My daughter, 3rd of 4 has processing problems and other learning difficulties which don't fit into any mould. She has had no significant illnesses, has a health diet and has two parents who work in education. Her other siblings are of above intelligence. Initially she met all her milestones and it appeared she would be as bright as her older siblings. Now as she developers the gap is visibly widening. At 8 and near the end of her older4th year of school she can read no better than children I have in prep.

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