INTRODUCTION: Prenatal antidepressant exposure has been associated with lower gestational age and birthweight. Yet, unmeasured residual confounding may inflate this association. We explored if maternal genetic liability for major depression explains part of the association of antidepressant use in pregnancy with lower gestational age and birthweight.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: We employed the maternal polygenic score (PGS) for major depression as a measure of genetic liability. We used generalised linear models to estimate the differences in gestational age and birthweight at each PGS quintile between children whose mothers continued antidepressant use during pregnancy (continuation group), children whose mothers discontinued antidepressant use during pregnancy (discontinuation group) and unexposed children.
RESULTS: After adjusting for confounders, we found significant differences in birthweight between PGS quintiles in the continuation and unexposed group. Yet, this relationship was not linear. Furthermore, at the lowest and highest PGS quintiles, the continuation group had significantly reduced mean gestational ages (adjusted β ranges: 1.7-4.5 days, p < 0.001-0.008) and lower mean birthweights (adjusted β ranges: 58.6-165.4 g, p = 0.001-0.008) than the discontinuation and unexposed groups.
CONCLUSION: We confirmed that antidepressant use in pregnancy was associated with small reductions in gestational age and birthweight but found that genetic liability for depression was not linearly associated with this risk. The causality of the observed associations could not be established due to the observational nature of the study. Residual confounding linked to the underlying disease was likely still present.