Antipsychotics Taken During Pregnancy Can Harm Baby


The results of an observational study indicate that women who take antipsychotic medication while pregnant are risking harm to their babies.

The seven year observational study shows that the use of mood stabilizers, or high doses of antipsychotics, during pregnancy boosted the necessity for special care after birth with 43 percent of babies placed in a Special Care Nursery (SCN) or a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This figure is almost three times the national rate in Australia.

It should be noted however that most women in the study gave birth to healthy babies.

The first-of-its-kind study was conducted by experts from the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc) and Monash University and led by principal investigator Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Director of MAPrc.

According to their findings, in addition to the increased need for intensive care, antipsychotic drugs affect babies in other ways:

  • 18 percent were born prematurely
  • 37 percent showed signs of respiratory distress
  • 15 percent developed withdrawal symptoms

"There's been little research on antipsychotic medication during pregnancy and if it affects babies," said Professor Kulkarni. "The lack of data has made it very difficult for clinicians to say anything conclusively on how safe it is for babies.

"This new research confirms that most babies are born healthy, but many experience neonatal problems such as respiratory distress."

MAPrc created the world-first National Register of Antipsychotic Medications in Pregnancy (NRAMP) in 2005. Women who were pregnant and taking antipsychotic medication were recruited from around Australia. A total of 147 women were interviewed every six weeks during pregnancy and then followed until their babies were one year old.

The good news, according to Professor Kulkarni, is that there are new and effective antipsychotic drugs on the market, meaning that women whose symptoms are controlled by these drugs can consider having a family, but it also means that no data previously existed on how safe these drugs might be..

"The potentially harmful effects of taking an antipsychotic drug in pregnancy have to be balanced against the harm of untreated psychotic illness," said Professor Kulkarni. "The good news is we now know there are no clear associations with specific congenital abnormalities and these drugs.

"However clinicians should be particularly mindful of neonatal problems such as respiratory distress, so it's critical that Neonatal Intensive Care Units, or Special Care Nurseries are available for these babies."

The findings have been reported in the journal PLOS ONE.

Source: MNT


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