Neonatal Symptoms

Exposure to Valproic Acid and Increased Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders

There have long been concerns regarding the use of the anticonvulsant valproate (Depakote, VPA) during pregnancy. First trimester use of valproate has been associated with a 3-5% risk of neural tube defects, as well as an increased risk of other malformations affecting the heart and other organ systems.  Multiple reports have also indicated that in utero exposure to valproate may also negatively affect cognitive development.

SSRIs in Pregnancy and Neonatal Distress Syndrome

Most obstetricians are now familiar with the potential for what has become known as neonatal distress syndrome (or "adaptation" syndrome) following third trimester exposure to SSRIs.  Some patients still worry about the possibility of their baby developing neonatal distress syndrome, especially if anything unusual happened during the post-delivery experience of an earlier pregnancy.  Women may be concerned about whether and to what degree the medication they were on played a role in their infant's distress and whether to continue that medication during a subsequent pregnancy.  The following case may help illustrate the decision-making dilemmas.

PPHN and SSRIs: Another Study Evaluating the Risk

In 2006, Chambers and colleagues published an article linking SSRI use during late pregnancy to an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn (PPHN). Based on the results of this analysis, the authors estimated the risk of PPHN to be about 1% in infants exposed to SSRIs late in pregnancy (after 20 weeks). However, subsequent studies did not demonstrate a significant association between PPHN and SSRI usage. A new study, this one relying upon data from the Swedish Medical Birth Register, has observed an elevated risk of PPHN among SSRI-exposed infants.

Maternal Stress and Low Birth Weight Predict Later Risk for Mood and Anxiety Disorders

It has been postulated that psychological stress in the mother, if present at a critical time of brain development, can permanently alter a child's response to stress and may have long-term negative consequences.  In response to stress, blood flow to the uterus is restricted and the fetus receives fewer nutrients, which may result in lower birth weight.  Several studies have demonstrated an association between maternal stress and low birth weight, and it is felt that low birth weight is a marker for stressful intrauterine conditions.

Untreated Maternal Depression: What is the Impact on the Unborn Child?

Depression during pregnancy is common. While concerns have been raised regarding the potential teratogenic and long-term neurobehavioral effects of psychotropic drug use during pregnancy, what is often overlooked is the fact that untreated maternal depression may also put the unborn baby at risk.

SSRIs and Pregnancy: Putting the Risks into Perspective

Depression is common during pregnancy, affecting 10% to 15% of women. While psychotherapy is an attractive option for the treatment of depression during pregnancy, all women do not respond to this intervention and many require pharmacotherapy. Thus far, no antidepressants have yet been approved by the FDA for use during pregnancy. Although data accumulated over the past 30 years suggest that certain medications, including the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be used safely during pregnancy, several new studies have raised concerns regarding the use of these medications during pregnancy.

Evaluating the Long-Term Effects of Prenatal Antidepressant Exposure

Over the last decade information has accumulated regarding the safety of antidepressants taken during pregnancy. While much research has addressed the effect of antidepressant drugs on risk for congenital malformation, less research has focused on the long-term effects of prenatal antidepressant exposure.

Withdrawal Symptoms in Newborns Exposed to SSRIs

A recent report suggests that newborns exposed to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Paxil may be at risk for developing withdrawal symptoms after delivery (Levinson-Castiel 2005). However, the investigators also noted that the symptoms usually disappeared within 48 hours and did not require medical intervention.