Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor exposure during early pregnancy and the risk of birth defects

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2011 Apr;123(4):266-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01673.x. Epub 2011 Jan 25.


Objective: To assess the methodological value of studies that signaled one or more selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) as teratogenic agents.

Method: Medical literature, published in English (1980-November 2010), was searched using MEDLINE/PubMed, TOXNET, EMBASE, and The Cochrane Library to identify all articles, reporting primary data that suggested any increased rate of congenital malformations following prenatal exposure to SSRIs as a group or single SSRI agents.

Results: Reviewed studies showed some severe methodological limitations, such as data coming from retrospective studies and incomplete information available with reference to timing of exposure and dosages. Further, data continue to be extrapolated from automated databases that do not declare whether the women reported actually used the prescribed medication. Further, it should be noted the distinct lack of research analysis available with reference to the potential impact of non-iatrogenic confounders on pregnancy.

Conclusion: In light of such considerations, the hypothesized teratogenicity of SSRIs remains undemonstrated. Hence, further, well-designed research is needed to differentiate definitively the detrimental impact of depression on pregnancy outcomes from potential iatrogenic events.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced* / etiology
  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced* / prevention & control
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First / psychology
  • Risk
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors* / administration & dosage
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors* / adverse effects


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors