To investigate a possible association between prenatal selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) exposure and childhood overweight at 7 years of age.
Information on pregnancy exposures and prevalence of childhood overweight at 7 years of age was obtained from the Danish National Birth Cohort. Overweight was classified as body mass index >85th percentile, based on age and sex. Based on an a priori hypothesis, we conducted analyses stratified by child sex to examine sex-specific differences.
Of eligible pregnant women, 127 reported using an SSRI, 490 reported having a psychiatric illness but no psychotropic medication use, and 35,568 reported no psychiatric illness and no psychotropic medication use. In comparison to children of mothers with a psychiatric illness but no SSRI use during pregnancy, prenatal SSRI exposure overall was not associated with an increased risk of childhood overweight (adjusted prevalence ratio [aPR] 1.12; 95% confidence interval 0.71 to 1.77). However, when stratified according to child sex, an increased risk was observed among males (aPR 1.78; 95% CI, 1.01 to 3.12) but not females (aPR 0.86; 95% CI, 0.37 to 1.99). In contrast, female children of mothers with a psychiatric illness but no SSRI use during pregnancy were more likely to be overweight than female children of unexposed mothers (aPR 1.45; 95% CI, 1.05 to 2.02). This association was not mirrored among males (aPR 1.06; 95% CI, 0.76 to 1.50).
We observed the potential for opposing sex-specific differences in the long-term effects of prenatal exposure to SSRI use and/or maternal psychiatric illness on childhood overweight. Limitations of the present study suggest that further research in this area may be warranted with larger sample sizes and longer follow-up.