New Mothers Need Improved Access to Antidepressants, Study Urges

New Mothers Need Improved Access to Antidepressants, Study Urges

Inadequate access to antidepressants for new mothers necessitates immediate action, as highlighted by researchers who underscored the additional benefits of an underutilized medication.

A study revealed that while 10 to 15 percent of women experience postnatal depression within the first year of childbirth, only a mere 3 percent are prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants.

Conducted by experts from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London in collaboration with the University of Oslo, the research aimed to determine whether women prescribed these drugs for postnatal depression experienced better outcomes than those without such treatment.

The study, published in Jama Open Network, meticulously analyzed data from 61,000 mothers and their children in Norway.

Of the participants, 8,671 mothers were identified as having postnatal depression when their babies were six months old, with 177 of them receiving postnatal SSRI treatment.

The study tracked maternal depression and child emotional and behavioral difficulties at one-and-a-half years, three years, and five years of age.

The research uncovered that SSRI treatment for postnatal depression correlated with improved outcomes at the five-year mark.

Children whose mothers used SSRIs to address postnatal depression exhibited fewer behavioral problems, conduct issues, and antisocial behavior at age five compared to children born to mothers with postnatal depression who did not receive this treatment.

Additionally, these children demonstrated reduced symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Mothers who underwent SSRI treatment also faced a diminished risk of depression five years postpartum.

The findings from the study suggest that SSRI treatment could yield “mid to long-term benefits” for women grappling with postnatal depression.

Dr. Kate Liu, a research associate at King’s IoPPN and the study’s first author, noted that postnatal depression affects 10 to 15 percent of women in the first year after childbirth; however, only 3 percent of women with this condition in the UK receive SSRI treatment.

This discrepancy is partly attributed to insufficient awareness of postnatal depression and concerns regarding potential long-term effects of antidepressant use on child outcomes.

Importantly, the study found no evidence indicating that postnatal SSRI treatment heightened the risk of child developmental issues.

In fact, it demonstrated a reduction in maternal depression and child behavioral difficulties linked to postnatal depression.

Dr. Tom McAdams, a senior author of the study and Wellcome Trust senior research fellow at King’s IoPPN, emphasized the under-recognition and undertreatment of postnatal depression.

He stressed the importance of recognizing it as a severe mental illness, urging proper treatment to mitigate negative consequences on mothers, children, and families.

Furthermore, the study conclusively dispelled concerns by revealing no evidence linking SSRI treatment for postnatal depression to an increased risk of childhood emotional difficulties, behavioral problems, or developmental delays.

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