Associations of Maternal Antidepressant Use During the First Trimester of Pregnancy With Preterm Birth, Small for Gestational Age, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Offspring

Importance  Prenatal antidepressant exposure has been associated with adverse outcomes. Previous studies, however, may not have adequately accounted for confounding.

Objective  To evaluate alternative hypotheses for associations between first-trimester antidepressant exposure and birth and neurodevelopmental problems.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This retrospective cohort study included Swedish offspring born between 1996 and 2012 and followed up through 2013 or censored by death or emigration. Analyses controlling for pregnancy, maternal and paternal covariates, as well as sibling comparisons, timing of exposure comparisons, and paternal comparisons, were used to examine the associations.

Exposures  Maternal self-reported first-trimester antidepressant use and first-trimester antidepressant dispensations.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Preterm birth (<37 gestational weeks), small for gestational age (birth weight <2 SDs below the mean for gestational age), and first inpatient or outpatient clinical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in offspring.

Results  Among 1 580 629 offspring (mean gestational age, 279 days; 48.6% female; 1.4% [n = 22 544] with maternal first-trimester self-reported antidepressant use) born to 943 776 mothers (mean age at childbirth, 30 years), 6.98% of exposed vs 4.78% of unexposed offspring were preterm, 2.54% of exposed vs 2.19% of unexposed were small for gestational age, 5.28% of exposed vs 2.14% of unexposed were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder by age 15 years, and 12.63% of exposed vs 5.46% of unexposed were diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder by age 15 years. At the population level, first-trimester exposure was associated with all outcomes compared with unexposed offspring (preterm birth odds ratio [OR], 1.47 [95% CI, 1.40-1.55]; small for gestational age OR, 1.15 [95% CI, 1.06-1.25]; autism spectrum disorder hazard ratio [HR], 2.02 [95% CI, 1.80-2.26]; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder HR, 2.21 [95% CI, 2.04-2.39]). However, in models that compared siblings while adjusting for pregnancy, maternal, and paternal traits, first-trimester antidepressant exposure was associated with preterm birth (OR, 1.34 [95% CI, 1.18-1.52]) but not with small for gestational age (OR, 1.01 [95% CI, 0.81-1.25]), autism spectrum disorder (HR, 0.83 [95% CI, 0.62-1.13]), or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (HR, 0.99 [95% CI, 0.79-1.25]). Results from analyses assessing associations with maternal dispensations before pregnancy and with paternal first-trimester dispensations were consistent with findings from the sibling comparisons.

Conclusions and Relevance  Among offspring born in Sweden, after accounting for confounding factors, first-trimester exposure to antidepressants, compared with no exposure, was associated with a small increased risk of preterm birth but no increased risk of small for gestational age, autism spectrum disorder, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Association Between Serotonergic Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy and Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children

Importance  Previous observations of a higher risk of child autism spectrum disorder with serotonergic antidepressant exposure during pregnancy may have been confounded.

Objective  To evaluate the association between serotonergic antidepressant exposure during pregnancy and child autism spectrum disorder.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Retrospective cohort study. Health administrative data sets were used to study children born to mothers who were receiving public prescription drug coverage during pregnancy in Ontario, Canada, from 2002-2010, reflecting 4.2% of births. Children were followed up until March 31, 2014.

Exposures  Serotonergic antidepressant exposure was defined as 2 or more consecutive maternal prescriptions for a selective serotonin or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor between conception and delivery.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Child autism spectrum disorder identified after the age of 2 years. Exposure group differences were addressed by inverse probability of treatment weighting based on derived high-dimensional propensity scores (computerized algorithm used to select a large number of potential confounders) and by comparing exposed children with unexposed siblings.

Results  There were 35 906 singleton births at a mean gestational age of 38.7 weeks (50.4% were male, mean maternal age was 26.7 years, and mean duration of follow-up was 4.95 years). In the 2837 pregnancies (7.9%) exposed to antidepressants, 2.0% (95% CI, 1.6%-2.6%) of children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The incidence of autism spectrum disorder was 4.51 per 1000 person-years among children exposed to antidepressants vs 2.03 per 1000 person-years among unexposed children (between-group difference, 2.48 [95% CI, 2.33-2.62] per 1000 person-years; hazard ratio [HR], 2.16 [95% CI, 1.64-2.86]; adjusted HR, 1.59 [95% CI, 1.17-2.17]). After inverse probability of treatment weighting based on the high-dimensional propensity score, the association was not significant (HR, 1.61 [95% CI, 0.997-2.59]). The association was also not significant when exposed children were compared with unexposed siblings (incidence of autism spectrum disorder was 3.40 per 1000 person-years vs 2.05 per 1000 person-years, respectively; adjusted HR, 1.60 [95% CI, 0.69-3.74]).

Conclusions and Relevance  In children born to mothers receiving public drug coverage in Ontario, Canada, in utero serotonergic antidepressant exposure compared with no exposure was not associated with autism spectrum disorder in the child. Although a causal relationship cannot be ruled out, the previously observed association may be explained by other factors.

Association Between Maternal Body Mass Index in Early Pregnancy and Incidence of Cerebral Palsy

Key Points

Question  Is maternal obesity in early pregnancy associated with incidence of cerebral palsy in the offspring regardless of gestational age at delivery?

Findings  In this nationwide cohort study of 1.4 million singleton Swedish children, maternal overweight and obesity were statistically significantly associated with increased rates of cerebral palsy. The association was restricted to children born at full term and partly mediated through asphyxia-related neonatal complications.

Meaning  Maternal obesity was associated with an increased rate of cerebral palsy in the offspring, partly mediated by birth asphyxia.


Importance  Maternal overweight and obesity are associated with increased risks of preterm delivery, asphyxia-related neonatal complications, and congenital malformations, which in turn are associated with increased risks of cerebral palsy. It is uncertain whether risk of cerebral palsy in offspring increases with maternal overweight and obesity severity and what could be possible mechanisms.

Objective  To study the associations between early pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and rates of cerebral palsy by gestational age and to identify potential mediators of these associations.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Population-based retrospective cohort study of women with singleton children born in Sweden from 1997 through 2011. Using national registries, children were followed for a cerebral palsy diagnosis through 2012.

Exposures  Early pregnancy BMI.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Incidence rates of cerebral palsy and hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% CIs, adjusted for maternal age, country of origin, education level, cohabitation with a partner, height, smoking during pregnancy, and year of delivery.

Results  Of 1 423 929 children included (mean gestational age, 39.8 weeks [SD, 1.8]; 51.4% male), 3029 were diagnosed with cerebral palsy over a median 7.8 years of follow-up (risk, 2.13 per 1000 live births; rate, 2.63/10 000 child-years). The percentages of mothers in BMI categories were 2.4% at BMI less than 18.5 (underweight), 61.8% at BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 (normal weight), 24.8% at BMI of 25 to 29.9 (overweight), 7.8% at BMI of 30 to 34.9 (obesity grade 1), 2.4% at BMI of 35 to 39.9 (obesity grade 2), and 0.8% at BMI 40 or greater (obesity grade 3). The number of cerebral palsy cases in each BMI category was 64, 1487, 728, 239, 88, and 38; and the rates per 10 000 child-years were 2.58, 2.35, 2.92, 3.15, 4.00, and 5.19, respectively. Compared with children of normal-weight mothers, adjusted HR of cerebral palsy were 1.22 (95% CI, 1.11-1.33) for overweight, 1.28 (95% CI, 1.11-1.47) for obesity grade 1, 1.54 (95% CI, 1.24, 1.93) for obesity grade 2, and 2.02 (95% CI, 1.46-2.79) for obesity grade 3. Results were statistically significant for children born at full term, who comprised 71% of all children with cerebral palsy, but not for preterm infants. An estimated 45% of the association between maternal BMI and rates of cerebral palsy in full-term children was mediated through asphyxia-related neonatal morbidity.

Conclusions and Relevance  Among Swedish women with singleton children, maternal overweight and obesity were significantly associated with the rate of cerebral palsy. The association was limited to children born at full term and was partly mediated through asphyxia-related neonatal complications.

Fish Oil–Derived Fatty Acids in Pregnancy and Wheeze and Asthma in Offspring


Reduced intake of n−3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) may be a contributing factor to the increasing prevalence of wheezing disorders. We assessed the effect of supplementation with n−3 LCPUFAs in pregnant women on the risk of persistent wheeze and asthma in their offspring.


We randomly assigned 736 pregnant women at 24 weeks of gestation to receive 2.4 g of n−3 LCPUFA (fish oil) or placebo (olive oil) per day. Their children formed the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood2010 (COPSAC2010) cohort and were followed prospectively with extensive clinical phenotyping. Neither the investigators nor the participants were aware of group assignments during follow-up for the first 3 years of the children’s lives, after which there was a 2-year follow-up period during which only the investigators were unaware of group assignments. The primary end point was persistent wheeze or asthma, and the secondary end points included lower respiratory tract infections, asthma exacerbations, eczema, and allergic sensitization.


A total of 695 children were included in the trial, and 95.5% completed the 3-year, double-blind follow-up period. The risk of persistent wheeze or asthma in the treatment group was 16.9%, versus 23.7% in the control group (hazard ratio, 0.69; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.49 to 0.97; P=0.035), corresponding to a relative reduction of 30.7%. Prespecified subgroup analyses suggested that the effect was strongest in the children of women whose blood levels of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid were in the lowest third of the trial population at randomization: 17.5% versus 34.1% (hazard ratio, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.25 to 0.83; P=0.011). Analyses of secondary end points showed that supplementation with n−3 LCPUFA was associated with a reduced risk of infections of the lower respiratory tract (31.7% vs. 39.1%; hazard ratio, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.58 to 0.98; P=0.033), but there was no statistically significant association between supplementation and asthma exacerbations, eczema, or allergic sensitization.


Supplementation with n−3 LCPUFA in the third trimester of pregnancy reduced the absolute risk of persistent wheeze or asthma and infections of the lower respiratory tract in offspring by approximately 7 percentage points, or one third. (Funded by the Lundbeck Foundation and others; number, NCT00798226.)

Sensitivity of fetal RHD screening for safe guidance of targeted anti-D immunoglobulin prophylaxis: prospective cohort study of a nationwide programme in the Netherlands

Objective To determine the accuracy of non-invasive fetal testing for the RHD gene in week 27 of pregnancy as part of an antenatal screening programme to restrict anti-D immunoglobulin use to women carrying a child positive for RHD.

Design Prospectively monitoring of fetal RHD testing accuracy compared with serological cord blood typing on introduction of the test. Fetal RHD testing was performed with a duplex real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction, with cell-free fetal DNA isolated from 1 mL of maternal plasma The study period was between 4 July 2011 and 7 October 2012. The proportion of women participating in screening was determined.

Setting Nationwide screening programme, the Netherlands. Tests are performed in a centralised setting.

Participants 25 789 RhD negative pregnant women.

Main outcome measures Sensitivity, specificity, false negative rate, and false positive rate of fetal RHDtesting compared with serological cord blood typing; proportion of technical failures; and compliance to the screening programme.

Results A fetal RHD test result and serological cord blood result were available for 25 789 pregnancies. Sensitivity for detection of fetal RHD was 99.94% (95% confidence interval 99.89% to 99.97%) and specificity was 97.74% (97.43% to 98.02%). Nine false negative results for fetal RHD testing were registered (0.03%, 95% confidence interval 0.01% to 0.06%). In two cases these were due to technical failures. False positive fetal RHDtesting results were registered for 225 samples (0.87%, 0.76% to 0.99%). Weak RhD expression was shown in 22 of these cases, justifying anti-D immunoglobulin use. The negative and positive predictive values were 99.91% (95% confidence interval 99.82% to 99.95%) and 98.60% (98.40% to 98.77%), respectively. More than 98% of the women participated in the screening programme.

Conclusions Fetal RHD testing in week 27 of pregnancy as part of a national antenatal screening programme is highly reliable and can be used to target both antenatal and postnatal anti-D immunoglobulin use.

BMJ 2016;355:i5789

Association Between Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy and Later Risk of Cardiomyopathy

Importance  Women with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, preeclampsia in particular, have an increased risk of cardiomyopathy during the peripartum period. Whether hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are also associated with cardiomyopathy later in life is unknown.

Objective  To determine whether hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are associated with cardiomyopathy beyond the peripartum period.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Nationwide register–based cohort study using Cox regression to compare rates of cardiomyopathy in women with and without a history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy in a cohort of 1 075 763 women with at least 1 pregnancy ending in live birth or stillbirth in Denmark, 1978-2012, with follow-up through December 31, 2012.

Exposures  A hypertensive disorder of pregnancy (severe or moderate preeclampsia or gestational hypertension) registered in the National Patient Register.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Cardiomyopathy more than 5 months after delivery (outside the peripartum period) up to 34 years 7 months.

Result  The women in the primary cohort had 2 067 633 eligible pregnancies during the study period, 76 108 of which were complicated by a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy. During follow-up, 1577 women (mean age, 48.5 years at cardiomyopathy diagnosis; 2.6% with multiple pregnancies) developed cardiomyopathy. Compared with women with normotensive pregnancies (18 211 603 person-years of follow-up; n = 1408 cardiomyopathy events, 7.7/100 000 person-years [95% CI, 7.3-8.2]), women with a history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy had significantly increased rates of cardiomyopathy (in 173 062 person-years of follow-up among women with severe preeclampsia, n = 27 cardiomyopathy events; 15.6/100 000 person-years [95% CI, 10.7-22.7]; adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 2.20 [95% CI, 1.50-3.23]; in 697 447 person-years of follow-up among women with moderate preeclampsia, n = 102 cardiomyopathy events; 14.6/100 000 person-years [95% CI, 12.0-17.8]; adjusted HR, 1.89 [95% CI, 1.55-2.23]; in 213 197 person-years of follow-up among women with gestational hypertension, n = 40 cardiomyopathy events; 17.3/100 000 person-years [95% CI, 12.7-23.6]; adjusted HR, 2.06 [95% CI, 1.50-2.82]). These increases persisted more than 5 years after the latest pregnancy. Mediation analyses suggested that only about 50% of the association was an indirect association through postpregnancy chronic hypertension. In this cohort, 11% of all cardiomyopathy events occurred in women with a history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.

Conclusions and Relevance  Women with a history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, compared with women without such a history, had a small but statistically significant increased risk of cardiomyopathy more than 5 months after delivery. Further research is necessary to understand whether there is a causal mechanism behind this association.

By Ida Behrens et al, JAMA. 2016;315(10):1026-1033. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.1869.

Metformin versus Placebo in Obese Pregnant Women without Diabetes Mellitus


Obesity is associated with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Lifestyle-intervention studies have not shown improved outcomes. Metformin improves insulin sensitivity and in pregnant patients with gestational diabetes it leads to less weight gain than occurs in those who do not take metformin.


In this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we randomly assigned pregnant women without diabetes who had a body-mass index (BMI; the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) of more than 35 to receive metformin, at a dose of 3.0 g per day, or placebo (225 women in each group) from 12 to 18 weeks of gestation until delivery. The BMI was calculated at the time of study entry (12 to 18 weeks of gestation). The primary outcome was a reduction in the median neonatal birth-weight z score by 0.3 SD (equivalent to a 50% reduction, from 20% to 10%, in the incidence of large-for-gestational-age neonates). Secondary outcomes included maternal gestational weight gain and the incidence of gestational diabetes and of preeclampsia, as well as the incidence of adverse neonatal outcomes. Randomization was performed with the use of computer-generated random numbers. The analysis was performed according to the intention-to-treat principle.


A total of 50 women withdrew consent during the trial, which left 202 women in the metformin group and 198 in the placebo group. There was no significant between-group difference in the median neonatal birth-weight z score (0.05 in the metformin group [interquartile range, −0.71 to 0.92] and 0.17 in the placebo group [interquartile range, −0.62 to 0.89], P=0.66). The median maternal gestational weight gain was lower in the metformin group than in the placebo group (4.6 kg [interquartile range, 1.3 to 7.2] vs. 6.3 kg [interquartile range, 2.9 to 9.2], P<0.001), as was the incidence of preeclampsia (3.0% vs. 11.3%; odds ratio, 0.24; 95% confidence interval, 0.10 to 0.61; P=0.001). The incidence of side effects was higher in the metformin group than in the placebo group. There were no significant between-group differences in the incidence of gestational diabetes, large-for-gestational-age neonates, or adverse neonatal outcomes.


Among women without diabetes who had a BMI of more than 35, the antenatal administration of metformin reduced maternal weight gain but not neonatal birth weight. (Funded by the Fetal Medicine Foundation; number, NCT01273584; EudraCT number, 2008-005892-83.)

By Argyro Syngelaki et al, N Engl J Med 2016; 374:434-443