Are Antidepressants Safe During Pregnancy?
Not too long ago, I was talking with a woman who was expecting her third child. With two older children not even in school yet, she definitely was about to have her hands full. (To borrow one of my most beloved expressions.)
This mom had one additional struggle to finding balance as a mom of three little ones, however.
Because she was suffering from depression.
After exhibiting some signs of depression early on during her pregnancy, including severe anxiety, and learning about some family history that involved severe mental illness, she decided to speak to her doctor about taking antidepressants. He started her on them right away and she raved about the difference the medicine was making in her life.
“It’s like night and day,” she told me. “The antidepressants have helped me so much.”
I was proud of my patient for taking the steps she needed to take care of not only her health, but her entire family. Because we all know, if mommy ain’t happy, then no one is happy. And although the expression is a lighthearted one, the severity of depression and especially post-partum depression is no laughing matter. So recognizing depression and taking preventative measures is definitely an important step.
The nurse in me does have to wonder though—is taking antidepressants during pregnancy safe? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
While there have been some concerns about the effect that some antidepressants may have on a baby’s growth, a new study by Northwestern Medicine has helped to ease those concerns. The study found that infants born to mothers taking SSRI forms of antidepressants (like Lexapro, Cymbalta and Zoloft) had similar weight and length measurements to infants born to mothers who were not taking antidepressants.
Although a promising first study, there are still risks to taking antidepressants in pregnancy. A joint statement made in 2009 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states, “Infants born to women with depression have increased risk for irritability, less activity and attentiveness, and fewer facial expressions compared with those born to mothers without depression.” The statement also went on to say that studies were still being performed that could possibly link antidepressant use in pregnancy to fetal malformations, cardiac defects, pulmonary hypertension, and reduced birth weight.
The ACOG pointed out, however, that depression and especially untreated, progressive depression also poses severe health risks not only to the mother, but to her baby and family as well, so recommends “psychotherapy” treatment as a non-drug choice and an individual, in-depth discussion between a woman and her doctor on other treatment methods.
If you are pregnant and concerned that you may be suffering from depression, be sure to speak to your health care provider about your treatment options. And if you are having any thoughts of hurting yourself or anyone around, seek help immediately.
Did you take antidepressants during pregnancy?