Should Pregnant Women Take Antidepressants?

Should Pregnant Women Take Antidepressants?

By Depression Connect StaffA Published at December 15, 2017 Views 4,244 Comments 3

Pregnancy is often considered to be a time of great joy for women, but for those suffering from clinical depression, this may not be a reality.

How does depression affect pregnant women?

Depression in pregnant women has been a mystery to the healthcare world for a long time. In the past, it was believed that the hormones secreted while carrying a child protected against depression and that only after childbirth, when hormone levels dropped drastically, were mothers more susceptible to mood disorders - namely postpartum depression. However, advancements in the medical world have revealed that pregnant women are not guarded from mood disorders. In fact, the sudden increase in hormones that occurs at the start of pregnancy may actually disrupt the chemistry of the brain and cause the onset of depression.

This revelation has led to an increase in the number of pregnant women who take antidepressants. And with that comes public concern over the health of the child. Some people believe that antidepressants lead to a number of complications for the baby, such as pre-term birth, cardiac defects and low birth weight, as well as a number of lifelong conditions including ADHD, autism and poor language skills. As The New York Times notes, studies have suggested that SSRI usage in pregnant women is linked to such long-term effects.

"This is a message people don't necessarily want to hear," Dr. Adam Urato, maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Tufts Medical Center, told The New York Times. "Everyone's happier with this idea that the medications are O.K."

But the evidence in these studies is not conclusive, and the notion that pregnant women should fear antidepressants has lit the flame for controversy.

Defense for antidepressants in pregnant women

Postpartum Support International responded to the New York Times article with outrage, stating that it is likely to promote unnecessary fear among women with depression.

"The implication that women idly choose to start or to remain on antidepressants, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) or any other medication during pregnancy is insulting and demeaning," PSI wrote in a letter. "Women who, under a healthcare provider's care, choose to remain on medication do so to counter moderate to severe depression or anxiety symptoms that would otherwise render them functionally impaired."

The letter goes on to say that the author of the New York Times article 'cherry picked' studies that support the claim, ignoring the plethora of those that suggest SSRIs are completely safe for women and babies. In fact, antidepressants may help alleviate symptoms of depression that lead to lack of sleep and bad nutrition, which can be detrimental to the health of the child.

"Rather than condemning the choices made, it is about time for society to support these women and show compassion for the painful ordeal they are experiencing," the letter stated.

Any woman can experience depression during pregnancy, but those who have a history of clinical depression are more susceptible to relapse when they become pregnant. Expectant mothers are often urged to dismiss their feelings as nothing more than temporary moodiness, leading to their condition being undiagnosed and untreated. That's why it's important to discuss any changes in mood or increases in anxiety with your midwife or doctor. Even in cases where women choose not to take antidepressants, therapy and natural treatments may prove effective in helping one cope with depression.

To learn more about pregnancy and depression:

Why Women get Depression During Pregnancy
More Than Just the "Baby Blues"

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