Study Shows High Rate of Debilitating Chiari I Brain Malformation from Antidepressant Use by Pregnant Mothers

The use of antidepressants on pregnant mothers has been found to increase the rate of a brain deformity in newborns known as Chiari I malformation approximately 9 times its normal prevalence.

Chiari I malformation is an abnormal development of brain growth in which the bottom of fetuses’ brains grow outside their skulls by extending downward through the hole in the bottom of their skulls and into the top of their spinal canals. After these children are born this brain deformation can cause these individuals varying degrees of difficulty. Some of them do not find much difficulty from the condition, while others may suffer daily from a variety of negative effects including frequent headaches, balance problems, dexterity problems, vision difficulties, jammed spinal fluid, neck pains, etc.

The brain condition is named after Austrian pathologist Hans Chiari who categorized several rare brain malformations. Of course, Chiari I malformation is no longer so rare, as pregnant woman have been being drugged with antidepressants for nearly 3 decades and approximately one out of five of their babies may have been born with Chiari I malformation. It is now actually an epidemic.

The side effect of antidepressants causing Chiari I malformation showed up in a research study published in May, 2014 titled “Rate of Chiari I Malformation in Children of Mothers with Depression with and without Prenatal SSRI Exposure.” Part of the study compared the brains of children whose mothers had been diagnosed as depressed and been taking antidepressants during their pregnancies to the brains of children whose mothers had not been diagnosed depressed and were not taking antidepressants during their pregnancies. 18% of the children who had been on antidepressants had developed Chiari I malform-ation as compared to only 2% of the ones who had not been on antidepressants.

Many Chiari I malformation cases never discover they have this brain deformity or they discover it from a brain scan after years of suffering. Some of them opt for an operation in which the back of their skulls and upper neck are opened up so that steps can be taken to decrease the pressure to their lower brain and spinal canal, such as by removal of bone from their skulls. Some Chiari I patients require multiple operations to lessen their symptoms.

Additionally, there are many other adverse effects to children that can occur from the practice of drugging them with antidepressants when their bodies are in the womb. Some of the side effects include increased risks of miscarriage, premature birth, babies born with low birth weights, autism, skull deformations, Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension decreasing the amount of oxygen going to the babies’ brains and bodies, speech and language difficulties and drug withdrawals of the newborns coming off of antidepressants.

Of course it is healthier for both the mother and her baby if the mother is not depressed when she is pregnant. Thus there is a need for much healthier solutions for a pregnant mother’s depression than antidepressants.

It is now widely acknowledged that antidepressants work primarily by placebo effect, especially with the studies conducted by Irving Kirsch and the publication of his book The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. (A placebo is a substance such as a small amount of sugar in a capsule, which has no real chemical benefit for the patient, but which the patient believes is a beneficial medicine.) Antidepressants are basically placebo substances, but ones which have side effects which tend to raise their effectiveness slightly above placebo [sugar pills] because the patients know they are taking some kind of drug from its side effects, and they have been given to believe the capsule they are taking will make them feel better.

Why not use a harmless, or better still, a healthy alternative to relieve the depression of pregnant women? Doctors may find the placebo effect of antidepressants convenient or maybe insurance companies won’t cover more time-consuming, healthier alternatives, but healthier alternatives must be utilized instead of the dangerous use of “antidepressants.” Exercise has been shown to alleviate depression. Placebos have also been shown to work, so why not give the pregnant mother a bottle of multi-vitamins to take with an encouraging recommendation from the doctor. Good nutrition is also helpful. Sincerely listening to a person’s problems and acknowledging them can alleviate depression. Even providing some pleasurable experiences, such as watching a particular movie can alleviate depression. Providing a pet, like a dog, can lessen depression for some people.

Whatever the objection, the present practice of drugging pregnant mothers who are “depressed” with antidepressants is too toxic and unhealthy and should be banned.

As a last comment, someone is likely to suggest that we should switch the pregnant mothers who seem depressed to other psychiatric drugs instead. However, all psychiatric drugs are essentially foreign substances to the body that are toxins and cause numerous negative side effects and diseases in patients. ADHD drugs cause stunted body growth. The antipsychotics have been shown to cause loss of brain tissue, diabetes and early deaths of both elderly and mental patients.

We should shift to healthy alternatives for pregnant women dealing with depression. This will require a lot of educating of parents and even many medical personnel.

C.L. Garrison is the author of Drugging Kids, Psychiatry’s Wholesale Drugging of Schoolchildren for ADHD, which is available on, both as a paperback and as a Kindle book.


Knickmeyer RC, et al., “Rate of Chiari I Malformation in Children of Mothers with Depression with and without Prenatal SSRI Exposure,” Neuropsychopharmacology, (2014, May)
Mitchell, Jaqueline, “Reconsidering Antidepressants for Pregnant Women,” Tufts Now, (2012, Nov. 26)
El Marroun H et al., “Maternal Use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, Fetal Growth, and Risk of Adverse Birth Outcomes,” Archives of General Psychiatry, (2012, July)
Brown AS et al., “Association of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Exposure During Pregnancy with Speech, Scholastic, and Motor Disorders in Offspring,” JAMA Psychiatry, (2016, Nov)
Kirsch, Irving, PhD, The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth