Antidepressants and Pregnancy
Written by Faith Anderson on November 1, 2012
Potential Side Effects of Antidepressant Exposure in Pregnancy
Many doctors don’t discuss with their patients the risks of antidepressant drug use in pregnancy, mainly because they believe that unborn babies are better off being exposed to antidepressant drugs rather than the elevated stress hormones and other psychological effects of untreated depression in pregnant women. However, experts indicate that research has yet to establish a link between poor pregnancy outcomes and maternal depression. Research does, however, suggest that antidepressant use in pregnancy raises the risk of miscarriage from about 8% among the general population, to 12-16% in women who take antidepressants while pregnant. Antidepressant medications are also associated with a 60% increased risk of preterm birth in women who don’t suffer from depression during their pregnancy, and a nearly two-times increased risk in those who do – compared to women who stopped taking antidepressants.
Antidepressant Drug Complications
“The complication rates with the use of these drugs aren’t low,” said study author Dr. Adam Urato, chair of obstetrics-gynecology at Metrowest Medical Center in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, researchers can’t establish a precise measurement of the increased risks, since pregnant women in the studies who choose to continue taking antidepressants tend to suffer from more severe depression or other health issues. The issue of whether antidepressants have any long-term mental health effects on babies exposed to the drugs in utero remains unknown. Nearly one-third of babies born to women who took antidepressant drugs develop a condition called “newborn behavioral syndrome,” which causes feeding problems, jitteriness, and inconsolable crying during the first few days or weeks after delivery. In serious cases, babies may develop major breathing difficulties that require a breathing tube.
Possible Effects of Depression Relapse
“Newborn behavioral syndrome is very rare in babies who aren’t exposed to these drugs,” said Urato, and while the condition typically resolves itself after a short period of time, researchers note that longer-term behavioral problems could be a side effect of antidepressant exposure. Animal studies, for example, have found that antidepressants lead to changes in brain development, and a human study has suggested a possible increased risk of autism in babies exposed to antidepressant drugs in pregnancy. Unfortunately, women suffering from severe depression will likely experience a relapse if they stop taking their medications. “For them, antidepressant use isn’t optional,” said Yale University School of Medicine psychiatrist and obstetrics-gynecology professor, Dr. Kimberly Yonkers, “just like diabetics or epileptics can’t stop taking their medications during pregnancy.”
Contact a Birth Defect Attorney Today
The American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a joint statement in 2009, advising women taking antidepressants who had mild or no symptoms of depression for at least six months to consider tapering off the drugs before becoming pregnant, adding that “medication discontinuation may not be appropriate in women with a history of severe, recurrent depression.” If you took an antidepressant drug like Paxil, Celexa or Prozac during pregnancy, and your child was born with a serious birth defect or malformation, our consumer advocates at the Consumer Justice Foundation can put you in touch with an experienced birth defect attorney in your area for legal help.