Children born to women who took a class of antidepressants while pregnant are at greater risk of having a language disorder, such as dyslexia, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry.
The risk is relatively low, explained Dr. Alan Brown, lead author of the study and professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center. Children whose mothers did not take an antidepressant while pregnant have about a 1 percent risk of being diagnosed with a speech or language disorder compared to 1.37 of children who were born to mothers who did take the drugs.
But the concern is that 6 to 10 percent of pregnant women are treated with antidepressants around the world, which is “increasing the public health burden,” which translates to greater expenses, Brown says.
Dyslexia and other diagnosed speech disorders can have a “potentially big effect on school function and later life function,” Brown said. “It’s a significant public health issue: A lot of therapies, speech language therapies, a lot of funds get invested. It’s a large burden to society and also to individuals.”
The antidepressants involved in the study include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which include the brand names Paxil, Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa and Zoloft. They are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants on the market. The drugs have been linked to various birth defects in the past, but this study is one of the only ones to associate maternal use during pregnancy to speech and language disorders.