Antidepressants in pregnancy: a systematic review

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2010 Nov;44(11):978-96. doi: 10.3109/00048674.2010.507543.


Part of three systematic reviews on the effects of psychotropic medication exposure in pregnancy, this paper critically reviews the literature on adverse effects of antidepressant use during pregnancy, and derives recommendations for clinical practice. Electronic databases were searched for original research studies examining the effects of gestational exposure to antidepressants on pregnancy, neonatal and longer-term developmental outcomes. Most results were derived from cohort (prospective and retrospective) and casecontrol studies. There were no randomized controlled trials. Congenital malformations: 35 studies identified, 12 demonstrated a significant association between antidepressant use in early pregnancy and congenital malformations. Pregnancy outcomes: 35 articles identified, outcomes measured rates of spontaneous abortion (4 out of 7 studies reporting elevated risk), preterm birth (15 out of 19 reporting elevated risk) and abnormal birth weight (8 out of 23 reporting elevated risk). Neonatal outcomes: 17 controlled studies including one meta-analysis were identified concerning neonatal adaptation. 15 studies showed an association between gestational exposure to antidepressants and neonatal adaptation difficulties. Three studies examined an association between selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) exposure and persistent pulmonary hypertension in the neonate with conflicting results. Longer-term developmental outcomes: 6 of 7 studies comparing developmental outcomes of children exposed to antidepressants in utero with non- exposed children reported no significant differences. Most of these medications remain relatively safe in pregnancy, but some significant areas of concern exist, particularly some evidence of higher risk of preterm birth, neonatal adaptation difficulties and congenital cardiac malformations (with paroxetine). The impact of these findings on the risk-benefit analysis when treating pregnant women with antidepressants is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / etiology
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / chemically induced
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Birth Weight / drug effects
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Premature Birth / chemically induced
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors