Newborns’ Brain Function Affected by SRI Use in Pregnancy, Study Shows

Exposure to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) during pregnancy could affect the brain function of newborn babies, suggests a study published online in Cerebral Cortex.

“We found many changes in the brain activity of SRI-exposed newborns,” said researcher Sampsa Vanhatalo, MD, PhD, professor and director of the BABA Center at the Helsinki University Children’s Hospital in Finland. “Since the changes did not correlate with the mother’s psychiatric symptoms, we have assumed that they resulted as a side effect of maternal drug treatment.”

Dr. Vanhatalo and colleagues came to their findings after recruiting 22 mothers who used SRI medication and 62 mothers who did not, and analyzing how SRI exposure and maternal psychiatric symptoms affected the brains of their newborns.

Computational electroencephalography (EEG) analysis revealed several differences between the 2 groups. Newborns exposed to SRIs had less organized communication between brain hemispheres than newborns not exposed to the drugs, researchers reported, as well as weaker synchronization between cortical rhythms. The effects were not correlated with maternal depression or anxiety, according to the study.

Behavioral and neurological assessments, meanwhile, showed only subtle abnormalities in newborns exposed to SRIs.

“The most interesting aspect in our observations is that comparable effects were recently found in animal experiments after fetal SRI exposure,” said principal investigator Mari Videman, MD, senior consultant in child neurology, Helsinki University Hospital. “This suggests that the early SRI effects on brain development may be comparable in humans and other species.”
They also recommended further research into the effects of SRIs on newborn brain function.

– Jolynn Tumolo


Videman M, Tokariev A, Saikkonen H, et al. Newborn brain function is affected by fetal exposure to maternal serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Cerebral Cortex. 2016 June 6;[Epub ahead of print].

Antidepressive treatment during pregnancy can affect newborn brain activity [press release]. Washington, DC: EurekAlert!; June 15, 2016.