Hanan El Marroun of Sophia Children's Hospital and Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues evaluated the association of maternal depressive symptoms and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors -- medication to treat depression.
The researchers examined the fetal and birth outcomes of 7,696 pregnant women. Of the pregnant mothers, 91.3 percent had no or low depressive symptoms, 7.4 percent had clinically relevant depressive symptoms and used no medication and 99 women, or 1.3 percent, used SSRIs.
"Untreated depressive symptoms were associated with a reduction in total body growth, including the fetal head, during pregnancy," the study authors said in a statement. "In contrast, prenatal SSRI use was related to a reduced growth of the fetal head, whereas prenatal SSRI use did not affect growth of the fetal body."
Children of mothers using SSRIs had a more pronounced reduced head circumference growth than children of mothers with depressive symptoms not treated with SSRIs, although they also showed a reduced growth of head circumference, the study said.
Fetal head circumference might be an indicator of brain weight and small head size in newborns might predict behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders, but the study authors cautioned: "We must be careful not to infer an association of SSRI use in pregnancy with future developmental problems."
The study was published Online First by Archives of General Psychiatry.