Maternal Serotonergic Antidepressant Use in Pregnancy and Risk of Seizures in Children

Background and Objectives

To evaluate whether children born to women who use serotonergic antidepressants during pregnancy have higher risk of neonatal seizures and epilepsy.

Methods

We used Swedish register-based data to examine associations between maternal reported use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) in pregnancy and diagnosis of neonatal seizures or epilepsy in >1.2 million children. To account for systematic differences between exposed and unexposed children, we adjusted for a wide range of measured confounders. After first evaluating the role of maternal indication for SSRI/SNRI use (i.e., depression or anxiety) and parental epilepsy, we adjusted for remaining parental background factors (e.g., age, comorbidities, education, and family socioeconomic indices) and pregnancy-specific characteristics (e.g., maternal use of other psychotropic medications and tobacco smoking in early pregnancy).

Results

Compared with all other children, children of women who reported use of SSRI/SNRI in pregnancy had an elevated risk of neonatal seizures and epilepsy (risk ratio [RR] 1.41, 95% CI 1.03–1.94; hazard ratio [HR] 1.21, 95% CI 1.03–1.43, respectively). The estimates of association were attenuated by adjustment for maternal indications for SSRI/SNRI use (RR 1.30, 95% CI 0.94–1.80; HR 1.13, 95% CI 0.95–1.33), but not by additional adjustment for parental history of epilepsy. Full adjustment for all measured parental and pregnancy-specific factors resulted in substantial attenuation of the remaining associations (RR 1.10, 95% CI 0.79–1.53; HR 0.96, 95% CI 0.81–1.14).

Discussion

We found no support for the concern that maternal SSRI/SNRI use in pregnancy increases children’s risk for neonatal seizures or epilepsy.

Classification of Evidence

This study provides Class II evidence that exposure to SSRIs/SNRIs in the first trimester of pregnancy is not associated with an increased incidence of neonatal seizures/epilepsy.

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