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.
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