Antidepressant Drug Use in Pregnancy Linked to Speech Problems in Babies

According to a new study, babies born to women who take common antidepressant medications in pregnancy may struggle with problems affecting their language development. The research was published online on October 8 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, and focused on depression during pregnancy and popular antidepressant drugs like Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Prozac and Lexapro. The antidepressant side effect research was led by Janet Werker of the University of Columbia and Takao Hench of Havard, and found that these antidepressants – known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – can impact language development in children exposed to the drugs in utero. If you took an antidepressant while pregnant and your child has struggled with language milestones, contact our experienced defective drug attorneys at Atkins & Markoff for legal help.


Researchers involved in the study examined three groups of pregnant women: depressed women not taking SSRIs; depressed women taking SSRIs; and women experiencing little or no depression and taking no medications. The researchers then conducted various auditory tests during 36 weeks of gestation, after birth, at six months, and again at ten months of age, and also measured eye movement and heart rate to determine the babies’ language discrimination abilities. The findings of the antidepressant study indicated that babies exposed to SSRI antidepressants in pregnancy could recognize their native language at 36 weeks of gestation, at six months of age, and at ten months. This is an indicator of an acceleration in language development, which researchers warn is not a good outcome. Apparently, early discrimination of a child’s native language affects his or her natural language development process, which can have more profound effects later in the child’s life.


Problems with a baby’s language development isn’t the only risk linked to maternal use of antidepressants in pregnancy. In recent years, extensive research has focused on the risk of serious birth defects associated with SSRI antidepressant medications like Paxil, when women take the pharmaceutical drugs while pregnant. In addition to potentially developing autism or seizure problems and experiencing developmental delay, babies exposed to antidepressants in utero may also be at risk of developing birth defects like spina bifida, heart defects, skull malformations, and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). If your child has suffered a severe birth defect and you believe an SSRI antidepressant like Paxil to be the cause, contact our defective drug lawyers at Atkins & Markoff to discuss your legal options and pursue the compensation necessary to ensure your child receives the medical care he or she needs now and in the future.