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Study links antidepressants, developmental delay

Babies born to mothers who took antidepressants classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors show delayed speech development, according to a study cited in Medpage Today.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver published their findings in PNAS Early Edition.

They found that infants whose mothers had untreated clinical depression during pregnancy showed delayed speech development, characterized by an inability to discriminate non-native language at 6 months. At 10 months, however, they had developed the ability.

Researchers also found that infants exposed to SSRI antidepressants in utero could not discriminate non-native language at 6 or 10 months.

By contrast, a control group of infants not exposed in utero to the effects of mothers’ clinical depression or to SSRIs exhibited normal speech development, reflected in discrimination of non-native language at 6 months but not at 10 months, when native language had become predominant.

This isn’t the first time that SSRI antidepressants have been linked to problems in newborns. Previous studies have linked SSRIs to potentially dangerous heart and lung defects. SSRI antidepressants include Prozac and Zoloft.

According to MedPage Today, language development involves complex interplay between biology and social experience. At birth, infants have an inherent predisposition for language that includes preparedness for learning any language.

Study author Tim A. Oberlander, MD, is quoted as saying that the researchers haven’t yet determined whether the language impairment in the study will persist for the long term.

The report notes that drugs in the SSRI class cross the placenta and the blood-brain barrier, creating the potential for adverse effects on cognitive or language development.

Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication. A consultation with an SSRI lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries from SSRIs.

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