Long-Term Effects of Intrauterine Exposure to Antidepressants on Physical, Neurodevelopmental, and Psychiatric Outcomes: A Systematic Review

Anna-Sophie Rommel, Veerle Bergink, Xiaoqin Liu, Trine Munk-Olsen, Nina Maren Molenaar
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2020 May 12, 81 (3)

OBJECTIVE: Reviews on child outcomes following in utero antidepressant exposure have focused on short-term outcomes. However, several recent individual studies reported on adverse physical, neurodevelopmental, and psychiatric outcomes beyond infancy and early childhood. The objective of this systematic review was to establish the long-term effects of prenatal antidepressant exposure on physical, neurodevelopmental, and psychiatric outcomes in individuals aged 4 years and older.

DATA SOURCES: Embase, MEDLINE Ovid, Web of Science, Cochrane Central, and Google Scholar were systematically searched for all relevant articles, written in English and published prior to November 8, 2018, using terms describing antidepressants, pregnancy, and developmental outcomes.

STUDY SELECTION: All original research articles on long-term outcomes of prenatal antidepressant exposure were eligible for inclusion. After screening and removal of duplicates, a total of 34 studies were identified.

DATA EXTRACTION: Included articles were qualitatively analyzed to determine inconsistency, indirectness, imprecision, and study bias.

RESULTS: The identified studies demonstrated statistically significant associations between prenatal antidepressant exposure and a range of physical, neurodevelopmental, and psychiatric outcomes. Yet, the risk of confounding by indication was high. When controlling for confounders, 5 studies investigating physical outcomes (asthma, cancer, body mass index [BMI], epilepsy) found no association except conflicting outcomes for BMI. Eighteen studies examining neurodevelopmental outcomes (cognition, behavior, IQ, motor development, speech, language, and scholastic outcomes) found no consistent associations with antidepressant exposure after taking confounders into account. Eleven studies investigated psychiatric outcomes. After adjusting for confounders, prenatal antidepressant exposure was associated with affective disorders but not with childhood psychiatric outcomes (eg, autism spectrum disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).

CONCLUSIONS: Reported associations between in utero exposure to antidepressants and physical, neurodevelopmental, and psychiatric outcomes, in large part, seem to be driven by the underlying maternal disorder. When limiting confounding by indication, prenatal exposure to antidepressants was significantly associated only with offspring BMI and affective disorders.

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