Background: The severity and treatment of depression/anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum has important implications for maternal and child well-being. Yet, little is known about prenatal SSRI use and early child socioemotional development. This study explores effects of prenatal SSRI exposure, and pre- and postnatal internalizing symptoms on trajectories of infant temperament, identifying potential differences for boys and girls. Methods: Using latent growth models, sex differences in infant temperament trajectories from 3- to 10-months were examined in relation to prenatal and postpartum internalizing symptoms and prenatal SSRI exposure among 185 mother-infant dyads. Results: For girls, prenatal internalizing symptoms were associated with greater initial distress to limitations, and lower duration of orienting, smiling/laughter, and soothability. Postnatal symptoms predicted slower decreases in girls’ duration of orienting. SSRI exposure predicted decreases in distress to limitations and slower increases in smiling and laughter. For boys, maternal internalizing symptoms did not generally affect temperament profiles. SSRI exposure was associated with higher initial activity level and slower declines in distress to limitations. Limitations: Only parent-report indicators of infant temperament across 10 months of infancy were provided. Maternal internalizing symptoms were measured at discrete times during pregnancy and postpartum, with no analysis of changes in symptoms across time. Conclusions: Prenatal SSRI treatment, and both prenatal and postpartum internalizing symptoms, exert unique effects on infant temperament. Overall, the present study suggests sex-dependent fetal programming effects that should be further evaluated in future research. Results have implications for perinatal mental health treatment and perceived impacts on child socioemotional development.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [grant numbers 54 490 and 57 837 ] and March of Dimes [grant number 12-FY01-30 ].