May 13, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 267 — Antidepressants and pregnancy, and food allergies

A new study from IU researchers finds that antidepressant use in pregnant women likely does not cause seizures in newborn babies and epilepsy in children. The researchers examined whether pregnant women taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors in their first trimester was associated with an increased risk of seizures in babies under the age of one month or epilepsy later in childhood. There’s a known association between depression and seizures, says study co-author and IU graduate student Kelsey Wiggs, so a child born to a woman who has experienced depressive symptoms during pregnancy could be at elevated risk of seizures for a number of reasons related to the underlying condition, without antidepressants necessarily playing any causal role. Wiggs and her colleagues worked with data from national Swedish registries, which include comprehensive data from prenatal visits, delivery and newborn examination for nearly all births since 1973. Since mid-1994, women have also reported any medication use during pregnancy. Researchers adjusted the model to account for mothers who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety, for parental history of epilepsy, and for other factors, such as smoking during pregnancy and sociodemographics like education and income. The researchers found that the first adjustment for maternal anxiety or depression substantially reduced the observed associations between antidepressant use and children’s risk of neonatal seizures or childhood epilepsy. While parental epilepsy appeared to have little influence, final adjustment for additional maternal factors reduced most of what remained of the associations. Wiggs’ research is part of a broader research effort to study medications taken in pregnancy and their possible effects on children.

In other news, children’s food allergies can be exhausting and frustrating for parents to explain to others. To help parents navigate conversations about food allergies, Jennifer Bute, an associate professor of communication studies at IU, has a few simple tips. She says it’s important to remember that most people have good intentions, so she suggests framing messages in caring and respectful ways, and being aware of how tone of voice, facial expressions and nonverbal habits could come across as hurtful or condescending without meaning to. Some people will understand food allergies better than others. For example, older relatives are often less familiar with food allergies and may need multiple conversations and reminders. The type of allergen you’re explaining might also be hard for people to understand. Bute says parents she’s talked to have a hard time explaining any food allergy other than a peanut allergy. There is currently only one FDA-approved treatment for food allergy, and it’s only for peanut allergy, and it isn’t a cure, so managing food allergies is almost entirely dependent upon good, clear, respectful, consistent communication, she says.