Antidepressant treatment during pregnancy: For better or worse? Neurodevelopmental outcomes in rat offspring

Danielle J. Houwing

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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Depressive symptoms frequently occur during pregnancy. An untreated maternal depression can have detrimental effects for both mother and the developing child. Similarly, antidepressant treatment during pregnancy has been associated with health risks for the (unborn) child. In humans, it’s difficult to completely dissociate the effects of antidepressant treatment from the underlying depression, as healthy women do not take antidepressants. Therefore, it is unclear whether it is the antidepressant treatment or the maternal depression that has negative consequences for child development. By using an animal model it is possible to dissociate between the effects. In this thesis we investigated the effects of maternal depression and antidepressant treatment during pregnancy, both separately and combined, on neurodevelopmental outcomes in rat offspring. Female rats were exposed to early life stress to induce a depressive phenotype in adulthood. Depressive-like and healthy female rats were treated with either an antidepressant or a placebo during pregnancy and lactation. Offspring of these females were tested for changes in behavior, physiology and underlying changes in the brain. We showed that the maternal depression had little effect on offspring behavior. The antidepressant treatment of the mothers resulted in a reduction of various behaviors, but this mostly occurred in offspring from healthy mothers. The findings of this thesis provide new insights on the effects of antidepressant treatment during pregnancy, which can help pregnant women, and their physicians, to make a more informed decision on whether to initiate or continue antidepressant treatment during pregnancy.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Olivier, Jocelien, Supervisor
  • Kas, Martien, Supervisor
  • Boer ,de, Sietse, Co-supervisor
Award date4-Sep-2020
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-94-034-2569-6
Electronic ISBNs978-94-034-2568-9
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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