United States: Anti-depressants used by women during pregnancy or while breastfeeding may adversely affect the fetus’ brain and increase its vulnerability to mental health issues later in life, a study concluded. 

Prozac (fluoxetine) raises serotonin levels in the brain that improves mood and this fact is now widely known, but there is growing evidence that this can affect a child’s growing prefrontal cortex, as Dailymail News reported. 

The scientists have found that the antibiotic is able to pass through the breast milk of female mothers who consume it and the milk is then fed to newborns. 

More about the research findings 

It is estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 children in the US are exposed to Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) this year during pregnancy. 

Won Chan Oh, a professor at the University of Colorado said, “We are the first to provide experimental evidence of the direct impact of serotonin on the developing prefrontal cortex when fluoxetine is taken during pregnancy.” 

He added further, ‘While it is known that serotonin plays a role in brain development, the mechanisms responsible for this influence, specifically in the prefrontal cortex, have been unclear,” and, ‘Understanding this has the potential to help with early intervention and the development of new therapeutics,’ as Dailymail News reported. 

Solutions and treatments suggested by researchers 

Physicians were recommended by the research team to include other strategies apart from just medical procedures in their treatment plans and the pregnant women and those who had postnatal depression were to be paid more attention. 

Serotonin occurs in many regions of the mouse brain. However, serotonin is a special molecule due to its multifunctionality characteristics, which uniquely enable it for shaping connections between neurons and adapting them in the process of learning and memorization. 

The researchers will look next at the effect Prozac has on the forming brain of a teenage. 

Among the different parts of the brain, the most recent one is the frontal lobe which is responsible for executive functions like planning, decision-making, problem-solving, and personality formation. 

A paper was published recently in the journal Nature Communications examining how these animals with low and high levels of serotonin structure their brains. The story was covered by the Daily Mail on their website. 

Planning for further study on developing teenage brains 

The research group currently plans to investigate the effect of Prozac on the teenage brain that is still developing. 

Prozac is one of the antidepressants most recommended in the world. It can be obtained on NHS and is rather used as it is safe and less prone to adverse reactions. 

Antidepressants are on the rise in the UK, with 86million prescribed in 2022/23 to an estimated 8.6million patients – 200,000 more than the year before. 

Earlier this week, a separate study found that exercise and yoga may be just as effective as pills to alleviate depression, Dailymail news reported. 


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