Neurodevelopmental outcomes following prenatal exposure to serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants: a "social teratogen" or moderator of developmental risk?

Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2012 Aug;94(8):651-9. doi: 10.1002/bdra.23032. Epub 2012 Jun 26.


Understanding how prenatal serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) influence early brain development can provide critical clues to how early life experience programs developing neural systems that might contribute to risks for illness across the life span. To date, no gross SRI-related neuroteratogenic effects have been identified, but evidence of subtle functional behavioral disturbances associated with fetal SRI exposure are emerging. Although some outcomes reflect a "main effect" for the SRI exposure, childhood development beyond infancy appears typical or continues to be influenced by life with a mother with a mood disturbance. Research shows that not all infants and children are equally affected; thus appreciating the effects of prenatal and postnatal maternal mental illness and of genetic variations that influence early serotonin signaling offers critical new insights into factors that contribute to developmental risk, plasticity, and resiliency in children with prenatal SRI exposure. Such a developmental perspective should lead us to understand what heightens or lessens neurodevelopmental vulnerability, thereby optimizing maternal pharmacotherapy and identifying who benefits and is least likely to experience neurobehavioral disturbances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Development
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Mood Disorders / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology
  • Risk
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / adverse effects*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors