However, when more than 80 percent pregnant mothers with depression were prescribed a newer class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the medication had no link to any increased risk for asthma in the child.
“How maternal depression affects asthma risk in the offspring is unknown, but the mechanism could involve hormone changes or changes in lifestyles,” said study lead author Dr. Xiaoqin Liu, an epidemiologist at Aarhus University in Denmark. “The most significant finding in our study is that we found that [overall] antidepressant use during pregnancy did not increase the risk of asthma in general.”
However, older antidepressants known as tricyclic antidepressants, told a different story, being linked to the same level of increased risk for asthma as depression during pregnancy. About 8 percent of the women took the older medication.
Depression affects between 7 percent and 13 percent of pregnant women, according to background information in the study, and antidepressant use during pregnancy has risen in recent years. To address depression symptoms, SSRIs are the most prescribed medication, such as Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine) and Celexa (citalopram).
Liu and her team examined the medical records of more than 733,000 Danish children born between 1996 and 2007, with more than 21,000 of the children’s mothers either had a diagnosis of depression or received a prescription for antidepressants while they were pregnant.
Children born to mothers who had depression were 25 percent more likely to develop childhood asthma, the findings showed.
Among the nearly 9,000 children whose mothers were prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy, the children of those women who received older antidepressants had a 26 percent increased risk of asthma.
The study did not prove that older antidepressants caused the asthma risk, just that there was an association between the two. Scientists noted that tricyclic antidepressants are prescribed for more severe depression, which has been linked to asthma in past research.
The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.