Are Antidepressants Safe During Pregnancy?

antidepressants
Image via J & J Brusie Photography

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?

{ MORE: What You Need to Know About Pregnancy and PTSD }

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.

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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.  

{ MORE: How to Tell the Difference Between the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression }

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?

What do you think?

Are Antidepressants Safe During Pregnancy?

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

Tell us what you think!

3 comments

  1. Monica says:

    I took Wellbutrin through both of my pregnancies and nursing. I had discussed my options extensively with my psychiatrist before even trying to get pregnant. That is what her own daughter had taken during pregnancy and she was confidant that the benefits outweighed the risks. Her grand baby was fine and my now 4.5 and 1.5yos are doing wonderfully.
    I still struggle with my dysthymia, but the Wellbutrin has helped a lot. 🙂

  2. jeaniper says:

    Unfortunately my doctor would not allow me to go off of them but put me on a lower dose. I also had to stay on a seizure med so I am very nervous. I wanted to stop cold turkey but he was very animate about me staying on them. However, he put me on extra folic acid and am considered high risk. But defects of no defects I know it will be perfect to me and I will love it no matter what.

    • kayla says:

      I am in the same boat. Except they let me go off them from 5 weeks – 10 weeks. The biggest time for developing baby. But now I am back on my meds and 1 mg of folic acid. So far a healthy baby!! 8

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