One of the largest mother, father and child cohort studies shows that treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for postpartum depression would benefit not only mothers but also their babies. It would even be beneficial up to five years after childbirth.
Postpartum depression is a disease that occurs in 10-15% of women. It can appear during the weeks and months following childbirth. Researchers from King’s IoPPN (in collaboration with the University of Oslo), analyzed data from more than 61,000 mothers and their children recruited during pregnancy as part of the Norwegian Mother-Father-Child Cohort Study . Researchers investigated how treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) modified the negative outcomes associated with postpartum depression in mothers and their children. Their discovery revealed two striking facts.
Treatment with antidepressants beneficial up to 5 years postpartum
The study published in JAMA Network Open analyzed data from 61,081 mothers recruited during weeks 17 and 18 of pregnancy. Six months after delivery, 8,671 of these women met the diagnostic criteria for postnatal depression, 177 of whom received postnatal SSRI treatment (an antidepressant). Maternal depression, child emotional and behavioral difficulties were measured when the child was 1.5, three and five years old. The satisfaction of mothers in their relationship with their partner was measured six months, one and a half years and three years after childbirth. The study found that postnatal treatment with SSRIs attenuated the association between postnatal depression and maternal depression at 1.5 and five years postpartum. Dr Kate Liu, one of the study’s authors, said: “Postnatal depression is a common psychiatric disorder that affects 10-15% of women during the first year after childbirth. However, in the UK only 3% of women with postnatal depression receive SSRI treatment..”
Treating postnatal depression with SSRIs also improves child behavior
While the main goal of treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors is to improve the well-being of mothers, the researchers noted during the study that this treatment also benefits babies. Indeed, after analyzing the data, the researchers were able to notice that the children had fewer behavioral difficulties such as ADHD symptoms than children whose mothers had not received antidepressants. “We found that postnatal treatment with SSRIs reduced maternal depression and child behavior difficulties associated with postnatal depression.” clarifies Dr. Kate Liu. And for those who are worried about the consequences of taking this treatment on the future health of their child, Dr. Tom McAdams, lead author of the study, said: “our study found no evidence that SSRI treatment for mothers affected by postnatal depression was linked to an increased risk of childhood emotional difficulties, behavioral problems, or motor and language delay“.
He added that “postnatal depression is under-recognized and under-treated. It is essential that we treat it as a serious mental illness and ensure that it is treated properly in order to alleviate some of the negative outcomes associated with it in mothers, children and the wider family.“Postpartum depression has a significant impact on the quality of life of mothers and those around them, so it is essential to dare to talk about it with your doctor or midwife in order to be oriented for comprehensive care. Treatment for postpartum depression may include antidepressants and psychotherapy.