Monthly Archives: May 2013

Prenatal Exposure to Antidepressants and Risk of Autism

It is estimated that autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affect about 1% to 2% of children.  Research carried out in twins and families indicate that ASD is highly heritable; however, it is generally believed that while  genetic factors play an important role, there is an interplay between genetic and environmental factors in the etiology of this disorder.  Various environmental exposures have been implicated, including vaccinations, mercury, air pollution, insecticides, and infection.

Valproic Acid and Pregnancy: FDA Issues Warning

There have been multiple recent reports indicating that the use of valproate during pregnancy may be associated with lower IQ, cognitive problems, and developmental delays in exposed children.  This has prompted the FDA to issue a warning regarding the use of valproate-containing drugs, including Depakote and Depakene, during pregnancy:

Soy Supplements for Menopausal Symptoms: Higher Doses and More Frequent Dosing May Help

Studies assessing the effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) for the treatment of menopause-related hot flashes have yielded conflicting results.  Most studies have demonstrated that treatments such as soy and black cohosh are not likely to be effective in most women; however, a new study suggests that women who take higher doses (100 to 200 mg)of isoflavones and more frequent dosing (2-3 times per day) may experience a greater reduction in the frequency of hot flashes.

Atypical Antipsychotic Medications: What Do We Know About Their Reproductive Safety?

Atypical antipsychotic medications are commonly used for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Despite the increasing use of these medications in women of child-bearing age, there is still relatively little data regarding the reproductive safety and long-term neurodevelopmental effects of these medications. A recent study assessed the development of 76 infants with fetal exposure to atypical antipsychotics.

New Research from the CWMH: Vasomotor Symptoms Frequently Recur After Discontinuation of SSRI

For the treatment of menopausal vasomotor symptoms (VMS), such as hot flashes and night sweats, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are effective and well-tolerated.  Positive effects are observed within 4 weeks of the initiation of treatment.  However, we do not know how long treatment with an SSRI must be continued in order to maintain control of VMS. Nor do we know if VMS will recur after discontinuation of SSRI or if recurrent VMS may be less frequent or less bothersome after receiving SSRI treatment. A recent report from Dr. Hadine Joffe and colleagues at the Center for Women’s Mental Health assessed the recurrence of vasomotor symptoms in women treated with SSRIs.

Remote Enrollment Initiated in MGH Study Assessing Mood Symptoms Across Infertility Treatment

We are pleased to announce the recent launch of an exciting new research initiative that is being conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health.  The Symptom Tracking in Assisted Reproductive Technologies study (START study) will focus on understanding the risk factors for depressive relapse in women undergoing infertility treatments.  There has been a growing request in our clinical work to address the needs of women undergoing infertility treatments.  It is our hope that such a study will provide important information on the course and risk of depression in women undergoing fertility treatment and thus inform clinical care.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Perinatal Depression: Maybe or Maybe Not

The omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), have a broad range of health benefits and may be beneficial for the treatment of mood disorders.  Because during pregnancy omega-3 fatty acids are diverted to the developing fetus, some women may develop a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy.  Previous studies have shown that pregnant women with lower levels of DHA may be more vulnerable to depressive symptoms.  Several small studies have attempted to use omega-3 fatty acids to treat perinatal depression but have yielded inconsistent findings.