Babies born to women who took antidepressants while pregnant are more likely to become obese and develop type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.
Obesity and type 2 diabetes in children is already on the rise in the United States and is generally blamed on poor diets and reduced physical activity. However, researchers with McMaster University say that maternal antidepressant use may also be a contributing factor in the pediatric obesity and diabetes epidemic.
The study focused on a commonly prescribed type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which include the brand names Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, Paxil and Zoloft. SSRI side effects include weight gain. Birth defects, such as heart defects, lung disorders, neural tube defects, and malformations, have also been linked to neonatal exposure to SSRIs.
Despite these health concerns, nearly 20 percent of American women and almost 7 percent of Canadian women are prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy. Researchers considered whether risk of metabolic disturbances in developing fetuses was greater in those exposed to SSRI in utero.
Using laboratory animals, researchers found that maternal use of SSRI resulted in increased fat accumulation and inflammation in the liver of adult offspring. This led them to question whether children born to women who used SSRIs while pregnant suffered long-term metabolic complications.
Women are advised to discuss with their doctors the risks and benefits of SSRI drugs, especially if they are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant. In the interim, researchers say the next step is to understand the mechanistic pathways behind why SSRIs pose a risk to unborn babies.
Source: University Herald