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Antipsychotic medications occasionally need to be used by women of reproductive age and during pregnancy. But this has raised concerns about the impact of these drugs on foetal development and childhood neurodevelopment. The medications, typically prescribed for conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, play an important role. But the uncertainty surrounding their safety during pregnancy has been a significant cause of anxiety for expectant mothers.

Researchers from Australia and Europe undertook a comprehensive study spanning from 2000 to 2020, across five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden), using data from national health and social registers, focusing on pregnant women diagnosed with psychiatric disorders and who’d had a single baby.

Data from more than 200,000 births were analysed, including 11,626 (5.5%) where the foetus was prenatally exposed to antipsychotics. These children were followed up for around six years, with the study evaluating their risk of intellectual, speech, language and learning-developmental disorders, as well as their academic performance in mathematics and languages.

The findings indicated no significant increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders or poor academic performance in children exposed to antipsychotics in utero. The results remained consistent across various medications, time of exposure during pregnancy and various analytical methods, indicating no real effect of antipsychotics on child development across these measures.

The implications of this study are significant for women managing serious mental health issues during pregnancy. The study offers reassurance for clinicians and expectant mothers, providing them with evidence-based guidance for treatment decisions during pregnancy.


Further information

Antipsychotic use during pregnancy and risk of specific neurodevelopmental disorders and learning difficulties in children: a multinational cohort study: The Lancet

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