When pregnant women take certain antipsychotics during pregnancy, offspring tend to score lower in neuromotor tests, according to a study published in Archives of General Psychiatry (part of the JAMA network of websites and publications).
There is a fine line that obstetricians and psychiatrists walk when it comes to treating pregnant women with mental illness. Not many psychiatric drugs have been adequately tested in pregnant women; so much of the information available is based on speculation made by doctors and psychiatrists.
For the study, researchers from Emory University used 309 infants who were 6-months old with reports of possible neuromotor development delays or issues. Of the 309 infants, 22 were born to mothers who took antipsychotics during pregnancy. The majority, 202, were born to mothers taking antidepressants during pregnancy and the remaining 85 were born to mothers who took no medications during pregnancy.
Using the Infant Neurological International Battery (INFANIB) test, each infant’s motor skills, reflexes and tone were tested. Each infant also underwent a vision test as part of the study. After all tests were complete, antipsychotics were on the top of the list as the psychiatric drug that caused the most significant risk of neuromotor depression. Less than 20-percent of the infants born to women who’d taken antipsychotics showed average neuromotor development for age.
Researchers noted that the presence of mental illness in the pregnancy did not affect outcomes of the tests. The research team noted, “Future investigations are warranted to disentangle the relative contribution of antipsychotic medications, maternal mental illness, concomitant (associated) medications and the broader psychosocial context in the developmental trajectory of high-risk infants. Pending such studies, these data support an additional level of clinical scrutiny in medication selection, treatment planning and risk/benefit discussions for women with illnesses who may warrant antipsychotic pharmacotherapy during gestation.”
Despite the outcome of the study, there are instances when psychiatric medications, like antipsychotics, must be used during pregnancy to relieve symptoms of a mental illness.
Source: Katrina C. Johnson, et al. Emory University. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2 April, 2012.