Is It Safe to Take Antidepressants While You're Pregnant?
Recent studies have raised questions on the safety of taking antidepressants while pregnant.
Recent studies have raised questions on the safety of taking antidepressants while pregnant. One study in Finland found more short-term complications in newborns, whose mothers were prescribed antidepressants. The other study conducted in the province of Quebec found a link between antidepressant use during pregnancy and an increased risk of autism in offspring. But the study showed an association, not cause and effect, experts say, and the added risk is small.
The drugs in question are most commonly prescribed for depression: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and some closely related drugs. SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), and sertraline (Zoloft), among others. Three closely related drugs are duloxetine (Cymbalta), nefazodone (Serzone), and venlafaxine (Effexor).
Another group of researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center also found a possible association between taking SSRI antidepressants while pregnant, and speech/language, scholastic, and motor disorders in children. You can read the results in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that the decision to use SSRIs and related drugs in pregnancy be made on an individual basis. In addition, ACOG recommends that women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should specifically avoid taking Paxil.
That means you should avoid taking SSRIs during pregnancy unless you absolutely need to. If you’re taking Paxil, you’ll need to stop or switch to another medication before you conceive.
To Take or Not to Take
Babies whose mothers took SSRIs during pregnancy showed higher rates of complications requiring time in a neonatal intensive care unit. Studies have also noted withdrawal symptoms in nearly a third of the newborns.
However, untreated depression during pregnancy is bad for both the mother and developing infant as well as the mother’s stress hormones can also increase the risk of preterm labor.
In the case of a severely depressed mother, if left untreated may result in serious consequences. Risks of suicide, showing signs of inability to function, and psychotic symptoms make it unsafe for a woman to go off antidepressant treatment.
Some women with mild depression may be able to go off antidepressants, some might have symptoms return. Here are some things to consider:
- ask your physician about what antidepressants can do to the child and also the risk of not getting treated.
- get to know your options
- what are the non-medication treatments to consider
- how to slowly come off antidepressants