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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2011 Oct;217(3):419-32. doi: 10.1007/s00213-011-2299-z. Epub 2011 Apr 14.

Fluoxetine administration to pregnant rats increases anxiety-related behavior in the offspring.

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Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Centre for Neuroscience, Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Geert Grooteplein 21 (route 126), 6525, EZ, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



Fluoxetine (Prozac®) is the most frequently prescribed drug to battle depression in pregnant women, but its safety in the unborn child has not yet been established. Fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, crosses the placenta, leading to increased extracellular serotonin levels and potentially neurodevelopmental changes in the fetus.


The purpose of this study was to elucidate the long-term consequences of prenatal fluoxetine in rats.


Pregnant rats were injected daily with 12 mg/kg fluoxetine or vehicle from gestational day 11 until birth, and the behavior of the offspring was monitored.


Plasma fluoxetine transfer from mother to pup was 83%, and high levels of fluoxetine (13.0 μg/g) were detected in the pup brain 5 h after the last injection. Fluoxetine-treated dams gave birth to litters 15% smaller than usual and to pups of reduced weight (until postnatal day 7). Furthermore, prenatal fluoxetine exposure significantly increased anxiety in the novelty-suppressed feeding test, the footshock-induced conditioned place aversion test, and the elevated plus maze test (following footshock pre-exposure) during adulthood, and also significantly decreased components of social play behavior at 4 weeks of age, and a strong tendency for increased self-grooming and making less contact in adults. Behavioral despair, anhedonia, and sexual behavior were not different between treatment groups. Finally, the hypothermic response to the 5-HT(1A) agonist flesinoxan was observed at a lower dose in prenatally fluoxetine-exposed rats than in controls.


Prenatal fluoxetine exposure in rats leads to detrimental behavioral outcomes in later life, which may partly be due to altered 5-HT(1A) receptor signaling.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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