Psychiatric treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be desirable or necessary during pregnancy; however, the benefit of these treatments must balance the benefits to the mother with any risk to the developing foetus. At the present time, the role of serotonin in normal central nervous system development, as well as the effects of altering serotonin transmission at critical periods of embryo development, remains to be further clarified. Depression has a high prevalence in pregnant women (around 10%) and approximately one-half of the pregnancies are unplanned, making necessary that physicians have to know the risks associated with the decision to use this kind of antidepressants during pregnancy. The effects of antidepressants in pregnancy could be classified in several main categories: the teratogenic possible effects; the effects on the normal development of the brain and neuropsychological functions; the effects on birth weight and/or early delivery; the risk of increased bleeding on the mother during delivery; the neuropsychological behaviour and adaptation after delivery, including not only neonatal withdrawal syndromes but also pain reactivity and increased parasympathetic cardiac modulation during recovery after an acute noxious event and in a wide range of neurobehavioural outcomes; and medium- to long-term effects in neurocognitive functions in those children. These areas are reviewed according to the most recent published cohort-controlled studies and prospective surveys regarding SSRIs use in pregnancy. The review tries to clarify the blurred aspects of the use of SSRI during pregnancy and to give sensible and up-to-dated guidelines for the treatment of psychiatric disorders with SSRI during pregnancy.
Keywords: neurotransmission, perinatal syndromes, teratogenesis, malformations, antidepressant therapy, pharmacotherapy
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