Study: Antidepressant Exposure Does Not Change Newborn Behavior

Newborn baby looking at motherUse of antidepressants during pregnancy does not appear to change the behavior of newborns at 2-4 weeks old, according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The study’s aim was to assess whether newborns exposed to antidepressants showed any signs of withdrawal after birth. Other studies have looked at younger newborns, but this study is the first to assess potential withdrawal effects over a longer timeline.

Do Antidepressants Change Newborn Behavior?

The study followed 214 women and divided them into three groups. The first group had a mood disorder and did not take antidepressants. The second group had a mood disorder and took a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). A third group did not take antidepressants and did not have a mood disorder.

Using the Finnegan Scale, which assesses for 21 symptoms of drug withdrawal in infants, researchers assessed each newborn. All three groups showed similar behavior, suggesting few or no withdrawal side effects associated with SSRI antidepressant use. Researchers determined any prevalent symptoms were a result of preterm birth rather than antidepressant exposure.

Antidepressants and Pregnancy

Previous studies have looked at the long-term effects of antidepressant use during pregnancy. The results of these studies are contradictory, so antidepressant use while pregnant continues to be controversial.

A 2015 study linked antidepressant use during pregnancy to a slight increase in the risk of a child developing autism. A 2016 study which attempted to account for differences between women who take antidepressants and those who do not found no link between antidepressants use and autism.

Another 2016 study found a four-fold increase in adolescent depression rates among teens whose mothers took antidepressants during pregnancy.

Depression itself carries risks for women and their babies. Though some pregnant women may experience relief with therapy and lifestyle remedies, others need antidepressants or a combination of therapy and medication. These women may find the benefits of antidepressants outweigh the risks.


  1. Taking antidepressants during pregnancy not associated with neonatal problems at 2-4 weeks. (2017, June 1). Retrieved from
  2. Yang, A., Ciolino, J. D., Pinheiro, E., Rasmussen-Torvik, L. J., Sit, D. K., & Wisner, K. L. (2017). Neonatal discontinuation syndrome in serotonergic antidepressant-exposed neonates. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 78(5), 605-611. doi:10.4088/jcp.16m11044

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  • maria d

    June 15th, 2017 at 9:03 AM

    MY doctors recommended that I not use Prozac while I was pregnant, although I think that I would have enjoyed the pregnancy far more had I been allowed to stay on it if there would have been no harm to the baby. All is well and I had a successful pregnancy, back on my Prozac after finished nursing and i am loving being a new mom. You often wish though that there was not so much information out there that was contradictory, but such is life I suppose.

  • pamela

    June 17th, 2017 at 9:28 AM

    I was scared to even take an Advil when I was pregnant much less anything prescription strength.

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