Medications to treat bipolar disorder and depression linked to respiratory distress in babies
Antipsychotic medications may not cause birth defects, but a recent study suggests these drugs, used to treat bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia, can harm babies in other ways.
A seven-year observational study found babies born to women taking these medications are more likely to spend time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or to need specialized care after birth.
“There’s been little research on antipsychotic medication during pregnancy, and if it affects babies,” said lead investigator Jayashri Kulkarni, director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Center. “The lack of data has made it very difficult for clinicians to say anything conclusively on how safe it is. This new research confirms that most babies are born healthy, but many experience neonatal problems, such as respiratory distress.”
The study included 147 women on antipsychotic medications. The women were interviewed every six weeks during their pregnancy and followed for the first year after their baby was born. Forty-three percent of the babies born to the women in the study spent time in a NICU.
Among the reasons the babies required specialized care:
15 percent developed symptoms of withdrawal
18 percent were born prematurely
37 percent showed signs of respiratory distress
The study authors note that the development of new antipsychotic medications have controlled many mental disorders, allowing women, who have higher rates of anxiety disorders than men, to have children.
“The potentially harmful effects of taking an antipsychotic drug in pregnancy have to be balanced against the harm of untreated psychotic illness,” Kulkarni said. “Clinicians should be particularly mindful of neonatal problems such as respiratory distress.”