Women who take SSRIs during pregnancy appear to be twice as likely to suffer a preterm delivery as women who are not depressed, Danish research suggests.
Current NICE guidance on antenatal and postnatal mental health acknowledges the uncertainty surrounding the risks linked to SSRI treatment.
Researchers studied women for a period of time before and after childbirth from 1989 to 2006. They examined gestational age, birth weight and Apgar score, an indicator of child health.
Outcomes were compared for babies born to 329 women treated with SSRIs, 4,902 women with psychiatric illness not treated with SSRIs, and 51,770 women with no history of psychiatric illness.
Overall, mothers who took SSRIs during pregnancy gave birth an average of five days earlier than those not on the drugs.
There were 29 preterm deliveries among women who were taking SSRIs, double the risk for women who had no history of psychiatric illness and were not taking SSRIs.
Additionally, babies born to mothers who took SSRIs were more likely to be in worse health and to be admitted to intensive care.
Exposed babies also suffered seizures, respiratory problems, infections and jaundice, which the researchers said could be withdrawal symptoms from SSRI use. Previous studies have shown that SSRIs can cross the placenta and appear in umbilical cord blood of infants.
Lead researcher Dr Najaaraq Lund, from Aarhus University, said: 'The study justifies increased awareness of the possible effects of intrauterine exposure to antidepressants.
'However, treatment of depression during pregnancy may be warranted and future studies need to find the safest medication.'