The observational study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, reveals that whilst most women gave birth to healthy babies, the use of mood stabilisers or higher doses of antipsychotics during pregnancy increased the need for special care after birth with 43 per cent of babies placed in a Special Care Nursery (SCN) or a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), almost three times the national rate in Australia.
As well as an increased likelihood of the need for intensive care, the world-first study by experts from the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc) and Monash University, shows antipsychotic drugs affects babies in other ways; 18 per cent were born prematurely, 37 per cent showed signs of respiratory distress and 15 per cent developed withdrawal symptoms.
Principal investigator, Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Director of MAPrc, said the study highlights the need for clearer health guidelines when antipsychotic drugs are taken during pregnancy.
“There’s been little research on antipsychotic medication during pregnancy and if it affects babies. The lack of data has made it very difficult for clinicians to say anything conclusively on how safe it is for babies,” Professor Kulkarni said.
“This new research confirms that most babies are born healthy, but many experience neonatal problems such as respiratory distress."