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Antidepressants in pregnancy not tied to intellectual disability in kids

Pregnant women's use of antidepressants does not increase their babies' risk of intellectual disability, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from a large sample of children and found those whose mothers took antidepressant medications while pregnant were no more likely to be diagnosed with intellectual disability than those who weren't exposed to antidepressants in the womb.

"There has certainly been a lot of reports about associations between taking medication - particularly psychiatric medication - during pregnancy and various outcomes," said Dr. Alexander Kolevzon, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

Kolevzon and colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry that antidepressant use in pregnancy has been linked to shorter pregnancies and lower birth weights. Some studies have also tied the medications to an increased risk of autism.

People with intellectual disability have an IQ below 70 and trouble with everyday tasks, they note. The condition also sometimes occurs with autism.

To see if there might be an increased risk of intellectual disability after exposure to antidepressant medications in the womb, the researchers analyzed data on all children born in Sweden in 2006 and 2007.

Of the 179,007 children included in the study, about 2 percent were exposed to antidepressants in the womb.

Overall, 0.9 percent of children exposed to the drugs were diagnosed with an intellectual disability over the next eight years, compared to 0.5 percent of children not exposed to the medications.

After the researchers took other factors into account, like parents' ages, education levels and the mother's history of depression, they found that the increase in risk in the exposed children might have been due to chance.

Even without adjusting for those other factors, Kolevzon said, the small increased risk among children exposed to antidepressants should not concern mothers.

The researchers also looked at whether risk differed by the type of antidepressant taken in pregnancy, but they found no difference.

"In our particular study, the type of medication didn’t seem to matter," Kolevzon told Reuters Health.

Based on the findings, he said, any increased risk is likely tied to other factors like parents' ages and the mother's history of depression.

"If there is a risk, it’s not driven by the medication alone and there are other factors that are contributing," said Kolevzon. "Those may be factors the mother can’t control."

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