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Neuroendocrinology. 2012;95(1):39-46. doi: 10.1159/000329293. Epub 2011 Aug 31.

Perinatal selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor exposure: impact on brain development and neural plasticity.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, School of Mental Health and Neuroscience, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands. j.pawluski @


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications are the most common antidepressant treatment used during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Up to 10% of pregnant women are prescribed SSRIs. Serotonin plays an integral part in neurodevelopment, and questions have been raised about the placental transfer of SSRIs and the effects of preventing reuptake of presynaptic serotonin on fetal neurodevelopment. Preclinical data is beginning to document a role of early exposure to SSRIs in long-term developmental outcomes related to a number of brain regions, such as the hippocampus, cortex and cerebellum. To date, the majority of preclinical work has investigated the developmental effects of SSRIs in the offspring of healthy mothers; however, more research is needed on the effects of these medications in the face of maternal adversity. This minireview will highlight emerging evidence from clinical and preclinical studies investigating the impact of perinatal SSRI exposure on brain development and neural plasticity.

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