Use of SSRI and SNRI Antidepressants during Pregnancy: A Population-Based Study from Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden

PLoS One. 2015 Dec 14;10(12):e0144474. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144474. eCollection 2015.


Background: The purpose was to describe utilization of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), including trends in prevalence, characteristics of users, drug switching and changes in prescribed doses in a large group of pregnant women across four Nordic countries.

Methods: A drug utilization study based on linked individual-level data from the nationwide prescription- and medical birth registers in Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The study population comprised all pregnancies in these countries, resulting in a live birth or stillbirth after gestational week 22 from January 1st 2008 to December 31st 2012 (N = 1 162 470). In addition to the main study drugs SSRIs and SNRIs, we included (concurrent) use of other antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics and hypnotics.

Results: A total of 38 219 (3.3%) pregnancies were exposed to SSRIs and 5 634 (0.5%) to SNRIs. Prevalence of SSRI and SNRI use varied by country (1.8% in Norway to 7.0% in Iceland). Use and prescribed dosages decreased with each passing trimester of pregnancy; prevalence was 2.7% at conception, and 2.1%, 1.7% and 1.3% respectively in 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimester. In 0.6% of pregnancies women filled a prescription before pregnancy and in every trimester. In one third of exposed pregnancies, women were also dispensed anxiolytics, hypnotics or sedatives.

Conclusion: Use of SSRI and SNRI use during pregnancy varied between the Nordic countries, but the overall prevalence remained low and relatively stable from 2008 to 2012. The low prevalence of use and high proportion of women who discontinue treatment in pregnancy raise questions about adequate treatment of depression in pregnant women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iceland / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors

Grant support

Helga Zoega received financial support from the Icelandic Centre for Research, START–Reintegration Fellowship, FP7 Marie Curie Award,(#130814-051),, The study was otherwise funded by the authors' affiliations: the University of Iceland, Karolinska Institutet, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Aarhus University Hospital. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. There was no additional external funding received for this study.