CNS Drugs

, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 623–633

SSRIs in Pregnancy and Lactation

Emphasis on Neurodevelopmental Outcome
Review Article


The aim of this review was to assess existing information about the long-term neurocognitive development of children whose mothers took SSRIs during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. The available literature consists of 11 studies (examining a total of 306 children) that demonstrate no impairment of infant neurodevelopment following prenatal and/or postnatal exposure to SSRIs, and two studies (examining 81 children) that suggest possible unwanted effects of fetal SSRI exposure. These unwanted effects included subtle effects on motor development and motor control.

Thus, the available data are not unanimous in excluding possible long-term detrimental neurodevelopmental sequelae of intrauterine exposure to SSRIs. However, it is clear that the research suggesting a lack of adverse events on infants’ neurocognitive development is much more numerous and methodologically better conducted than the studies showing possible unwanted effects. Nevertheless, all reviewed studies had procedural inadequacies, and the screening instruments used have limitations, especially in the evaluation of infants. Furthermore, it is not advisable to extend the generalisations emerging from the findings of a few trials to every infant. Some infants may experience difficulties in metabolising the drugs and/or their metabolites, so the benign outcome described for most infants may not occur.

Thus, the findings emerging from the reports are inconclusive and are not able to fully clarify the repercussions of maternal SSRI treatment on infants’ long-term neurocognitive development. Further large, simple and well designed, randomised, prospective studies will be required for this purpose. These should also be of adequate length and performed using reproducible neurophysiological parameters in order to firmly establish the safety of these medications


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mental HealthASL Salerno 1, Mental Health Center Operative Unit n. 4SalernoItaly

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