Study Reveals Antidepressants in Mothers with Postpartum Depression Also Have a Positive Impact on Child’s Development.

A recent study suggests that new mothers struggling with postpartum depression could find relief through selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Not only does the medication help alleviate their depressive symptoms, but it also brings about significant benefits for the child’s development, up to five years post-birth.

The groundbreaking research, conducted collaboratively by teams from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London and the University of Oslo, sheds light on the advantages of SSRI medication. The study involved in-depth analysis of data pertaining to more than 61,000 mothers and their offsprings from the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study.

A notable outcome from this investigation was the observation of reduced behavioral issues in children, including conduct problems, ADHD symptoms, and the positive spillover effect of reduced maternal depression. These findings also correlated with enhanced satisfaction levels in partner relationships.

It’s alarming to note that postnatal depression impacts a significant 10-15% of women during their first year post-childbirth. However, in the UK, a mere 3% of these affected women resort to SSRI treatments. The reluctance stems largely from concerns about the potential long-term effects of these antidepressants on child outcomes and the prevailing lack of awareness surrounding postnatal depression.

Dr. Chaoyu Liu, the lead author of the study, highlights the importance of the findings: “Our study discovered no evidence suggesting that postnatal SSRI treatment leads to any risk for child development. Contrarily, it reduced the associated child behavioral difficulties and maternal depression.”

To provide a comprehensive view, mothers were enrolled during the 17th to 18th weeks of their pregnancies. From the cohort, over 8,600 were diagnosed with postnatal depression at six months postpartum, with over 170 opting for postnatal SSRI treatment.

The team conducted assessments of maternal depression and child emotional and behavioral problems when the child was at the age intervals of 1.5, 3, and 5 years. Additionally, feedback on maternal-partner relationship satisfaction was gathered at the 6-month, 1.5-year, and 3-year postpartum marks.

A concerning revelation was the link between more severe postnatal depression and its cascading effects: heightened future maternal depression, reduced partner relationship satisfaction, exacerbated child emotional and behavioral issues, and stunted motor and language development. However, introducing SSRI treatment altered this association, demonstrating its potential to combat the adverse impacts of postnatal depression.

In light of this study, it becomes crucial to reevaluate the approach towards postnatal depression and consider the potential benefits of SSRI treatment for both mother and child.


Liu C, Ystrom E, McAdams TA. Long-Term Maternal and Child Outcomes Following Postnatal SSRI Treatment. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(8):e2331270. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.31270