Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor prescribing before, during and after pregnancy: a population-based study in six European regions

BJOG. 2015 Jun;122(7):1010-20. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.13143. Epub 2014 Oct 28.


Objective: To explore the prescribing patterns of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) before, during and after pregnancy in six European population-based databases.

Design: Descriptive drug utilisation study.

Setting: Six electronic healthcare databases in Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy (Emilia Romagna/Tuscany), Wales and the rest of the UK.

Population: All women with a pregnancy ending in a live or stillbirth starting and ending between 2004 and 2010.

Methods: A common protocol was implemented across databases to identify SSRI prescriptions issued (UK) or dispensed (non-UK) in the year before, during or in the year following pregnancy.

Main outcome measures: The percentage of deliveries in which the woman received an SSRI prescription in the year before, during or in the year following pregnancy. We also compared the choice of SSRIs and changes in prescribing over the study period.

Results: In total, 721 632 women and 862,943 deliveries were identified. In the year preceding pregnancy, the prevalence of SSRI prescribing was highest in Wales [9.6%; 95% confidence interval (CI95 ), 9.4-9.8%] and lowest in Emilia Romagna (3.3%; CI95 , 3.2-3.4%). During pregnancy, SSRI prescribing had dropped to between 1.2% (CI95 , 1.1-1.3%) in Emilia Romagna and 4.5% (CI95 , 4.3-4.6%) in Wales. The higher UK pre-pregnancy prescribing rates resulted in higher first trimester exposures. After pregnancy, SSRI prescribing increased most rapidly in the UK. Paroxetine was more commonly prescribed in the Netherlands and Italian regions than in Denmark and the UK.

Conclusions: The higher SSRI prescribing rates in the UK, compared with other European regions, raise questions about differences in the prevalence and severity of depression and its management in pregnancy across Europe.

Keywords: Drug utilisation; electronic health records; pregnancy; serotonin uptake inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors