Dr. Amy Salisbury Published in American Journal of Psychiatry for Study Findings in Depression Medication and Pregnancy

Release Date: 11/12/2015

Amy Salisbury, PhD, a research scientist at Women & Infants Hospital’s Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk and an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, was published for her study “Effects of Maternal Depression on the Neurobehavior of Infants,” in the American Journal of Psychiatry.


Women who were pregnant and diagnosed with depression were involved in the study. Researchers evaluated the effects of prenatal use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines, as well as no drug treatment, on newborns. Dr. Salisbury and her team found adverse effects in infants of women taking SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy beyond the first seven to 10 days postpartum and that the use of benzodiazepines in conjunction with SSRIs was associated with more significant problems in infant neurological functioning than SSRI use alone.


“Infants in the SSRI and SSRI plus benzodiazepine groups had lower motor scores and more central nervous system stress signs across the first postnatal month as well as lower self-regulation. Infants in the depression group had low arousal through the newborn period,” explained Dr. Salisbury.


“Women who need treatment should continue to receive it. The recommendations are actually to not stop taking the medications just to prevent neurobehavioral problems for the baby at birth as we did not find evidence that it prevents these signs. The one caution was in using a benzodiazepine to treat women as the effects were more pronounced and longer lasting.”


However, Dr. Salisbury notes that women who need that medication combination may be at higher risk from their symptoms showing that the need for treatment may outweigh the potential problems for the baby.

Dr. Salisbury is a graduate of Clark University and completed her doctoral training at the University of Connecticut in biobehavioral sciences/developmental psychobiology. Dr. Salisbury completed her postdoctoral research fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University. She is board certified as a clinical nurse specialist in child and family psychiatry.


Additional co-authors on the study from Women & Infants Hospital include Cynthia Battle, PhD, a research psychologist in the Center for Women’s Behavioral Health and associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior (research) at the Alpert Medical School; Cynthia Miller-Loncar, PhD, director of clinical services for the Women & Infants Center for Children and Families and assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Alpert Medical School; and Barry Lester, PhD, founder and director of the Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk.


About Women & Infants Hospital 

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation’s leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine, Women & Infants is the 9th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year. A Designated Baby-Friendly® USA hospital, U.S.News & World Report 2014-15 Best Children’s Hospital in Neonatology and a 2014 Leapfrog Top Hospital, in 2009 Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country’s largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation’s first mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation’s only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.