Umbilical cords longer in babies exposed to SSRIs

Data show babies born to women who used SSRIs also had lower Apgar scores and were more likely to be admitted to neonatal intensive care.

Doctor holds the umbilical cord of a newborn baby

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are increasingly used by women while pregnant. But the effect of these antidepressant drugs on pregnancy and fetal development is unclear. 

In a paper published in PLoS One (online, 29 April 2016)[1]
, researchers from Finland analysed data from 24,818 women who gave birth between 2002 and 2012, 369 of whom used SSRIs during pregnancy. 

Babies born to the women who used SSRIs had significantly lower Apgar scores – a health test carried out on babies soon after birth – and were more likely to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. These babies also had significantly longer umbilical cords. 

Umbilical cords can stretch if the baby moves more in the womb, suggesting SSRIs could affect fetal movement. However, the researchers note they were not able to detect whether the effect could be due to maternal depression itself.


[1] Kivistö J, Lehto SM, Halonen K, et al. Maternal use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and lengthening of the umbilical cord: indirect evidence of increased foetal activity—a retrospective cohort study. PLoS One 2016. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0154628.

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, June 2016, Vol 8, No 6;8(6):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201190

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