Infants Exposed to Psychotropic Drugs During Pregnancy At Risk


New research published in the July issue of The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that the use of mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and hypnotics during pregnancy is associated with increased health risks to the infant.

While previous studies have examined the increased likelihood of birth defects from the use of psychotropic drugs in pregnancy, less is known about what effect prenatal exposure to various classes of psychiatric drugs has on newborn health outcomes.  Current research has linked antipsychotic use with low birth weight, preterm birth, jaundice, and poor neonatal adaptation.  Poor neonatal adaptation is characterized by “jitteriness, poor muscle tone, weak cry, respiratory distress, hypoglycemia, low Apgar scores, and seizures.”  Antidepressants have also regularly been linked to low birth weight and poor neonatal adaptation.

The latest research, led by Anne-Laure Sutter-Dallay, explores “the independent impact of each class of psychotropic drug,” with specific health outcomes in infants, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and the likelihood of neonatal hospitalization.

“To our knowledge, no prior study has simultaneously explored the independent impact of prenatal exposure to multiple classes of psychotropic drugs on the health of the newborn.  The findings were also adjusted for maternal characteristics often not included in such studies, especially maternal psychiatric diagnosis,” Sutter-Dallay wrote.

The study was carried out over 10 years (2001-2010) in 13 psychiatric inpatient units for women and babies in France, known as mother-baby units (MBUs), and included the health records of 1,071 mothers and their infants.  They found that over 40% of the women in their sample used at least one psychotropic drug during pregnancy and that 52.4% of those were simultaneously taking more than one class of drug.

After adjusting for maternal characteristics, the researchers found that infants exposed to mood stabilizers were twice as likely to have low birth weights and were more likely to be hospitalized if prenatally exposed to antipsychotics, antidepressants, or hypnotics.

They conclude that “Infants exposed to psychotropic drugs during pregnancy have less optimal neonatal outcomes than unexposed infants and should be considered as a high-risk population.”

The researchers suggest that women diagnosed with mental health disorders do need treatment but that their results highlight the necessity for increased follow-up and monitoring of these women and their infants.  They recommend that more studies be carried out to “examine the impact of each pharmacologic class of drug,” as well as “the occurrence and the severity of poor neonatal adaptation of exposed infants, and the link between poor neonatal adaptation and subsequent child development.”



Sutter-Dallay, A. L., Bales, M., Pambrun, E., Glangeaud-Freudenthal, N. M., Wisner, K. L., & Verdoux, H. (2015). Impact of prenatal exposure to psychotropic drugs on neonatal outcome in infants of mothers with serious psychiatric illnesses. The Journal of clinical psychiatry. (Abstract)


  1. Amazing….pregnant women are advised to avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and a whole host of potentially damaging foods most of us eat daily, and virtually every drug imaginable from asprin to antibiotics. We know babies born to drug-addicted mothers suffer terribly from withdrawals and a whole range of complications. We have had the thalidomide experience. We know the placenta can’t differentiate between legally prescribed and illegally obtained drugs.

    …And yet, rather than the psychiatric drugging community (companies and doctors) being made to prove the safety of its psychoactive drugs on the unborn, it is left to researchers after the damage is done to prove that the drugs ARE harmful to this cohort.

    Will the relevant authorities listen? Will doctors inform women of childbearing age of the dangers BEFORE prescribing the drugs?

    Nope, all the mums will hear is the old lie….”generally safe and well-tolerated” and that damage can’t have been caused by these meds, and that problems must be because of genes, or biochemical imbalance or something else they did/have.


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  2. Infants Exposed to Psychotropic Drugs During Pregnancy At Risk…

    Thanks Capt Obvious.

    Altering the function of body chemistry with these chemical drugs that life on earth has never before encountered over vast eons of time, can’t not have some unpredictable and bad results.

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    • That can very well be the case. These drugs affect brain development so I’d be surprised if they didn’t screw up at least some kids for life. It’s horrible to even think about especially when you consider how many women are on these drugs.

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  3. What’s truly sick is the authors’ conclusions, “women diagnosed with mental health disorders do need treatment,” “increased monitoring and follow up,” “infants exposed to psychiatric drugs … should be considered as a high risk population.” More power and money for the psychiatrists as they oversee the harm of unborn children, in other words.

    The ethically appropriate recommendation would be do not give these drugs to pregnant women.

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    • Exactly. I wonder how “monitoring” is going to change anything. Will give you some poison, but don’t worry – we’ll monitor closely as you’re getting sick and possibly die. Women are advised not to take most drugs while pregnant – why is that not the case for psych drugs?

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  4. Amanda Hatfield posted this picture ( a pile of pills) to accompany the, September 17, 2015 article: ‘No Long-Term Effects of Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy’. She also says under this picture: “So I guess the key to my brain chemistry is somewhere in the mix here.”

    However, I believe it’s absolutely impossible for SSRI’s to NOT effect the growing brain in the fetus one way or another given how they effect the adult brain causing a chemical imbalance. Because Wiley writes literature for pharmaceutical companies how reliable can this article be? I don’t believe this information for a New York minute. I may be wrong for posting this. If I am, please let me know.

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  5. The brainwashing in the field is so powerful that women on psych “meds” who are pregnant and then, either miscarry, or give birth to a stillborn baby or one clearly damaged during pregnancy are more likely to blame their non-existent disorders than any “med.” The prescribers who lied to them likewise.

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