Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors during pregnancy and risk of stillbirth and infant mortality

JAMA. 2013 Jan 2;309(1):48-54. doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.153812.


Importance: Maternal psychiatric disease is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. Use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy has been associated with congenital anomalies, neonatal withdrawal syndrome, and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn. However, the risk of stillbirth and infant mortality when accounting for previous maternal psychiatric disease remains unknown.

Objective: To study risk of stillbirth and infant mortality associated with use of SSRIs during pregnancy.

Design, setting, and participants: Population-based cohort study from all Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) at different periods from 1996 through 2007. The study included women with singleton births. We obtained information on maternal use of SSRIs from prescription registries. Maternal characteristics, pregnancy, and neonatal outcomes were obtained from patient and medical birth registries.

Main outcome measures: We used logistic regression to estimate relative risks of stillbirth, neonatal death, and postneonatal death associated with SSRI use during pregnancy taking into account maternal characteristics and previous psychiatric hospitalization.

Results: Among 1,633,877 singleton births in the study, 6054 were stillbirths; 3609, neonatal deaths; and 1578, postneonatal deaths. A total of 29,228 (1.79%) of mothers had filled a prescription for an SSRI during pregnancy. Women exposed to an SSRI presented with higher rates of stillbirth (4.62 vs 3.69 per 1000, P = .01) and postneonatal death (1.38 vs 0.96 per 1000, P = .03) than those who did not. The rate of neonatal death was similar between groups (2.54 vs 2.21 per 1000, P = .24). Yet in multivariable models, SSRI use was not associated with stillbirth (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.17; 95% CI, 0.96-1.41; P = .12), neonatal death (adjusted OR, 1.23; 95% CI, 0.96-1.57; P = .11), or postneonatal death (adjusted OR, 1.34; 95% CI, 0.97-1.86; P = .08). Estimates were further attenuated when stratified by previous hospitalization for psychiatric disease. The adjusted OR for stillbirth in women with a previous hospitalization for psychiatric disease was 0.92 (95% CI, 0.66-1.28; P = .62) and was 1.07 (95% CI, 0.84-1.36; P = .59) for those who had not been previously hospitalized. The corresponding ORs for neonatal death were 0.89 (95% CI, 0.58-1.39; P = .62) for women who were hospitalized and 1.14 (95% CI, 0.84-1.56; P = .39) for women who were not. For postneonatal death, the ORs were 1.02 (95% CI, 0.61-1.69; P = .95) for women who were hospitalized and 1.10 (95% CI, 0.71-1.72; P = .66) for women who were not.

Conclusions and relevance: Among women with singleton births in Nordic countries, no significant association was found between use of SSRIs during pregnancy and risk of stillbirth, neonatal mortality, or postneonatal mortality. However, decisions about use of SSRIs during pregnancy must take into account other perinatal outcomes and the risks associated with maternal mental illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Risk
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / epidemiology
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Stillbirth / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors