Can You Take Antidepressants While You Are Pregnant?

The first thing that will happen when you announce that you are pregnant, after “Congratulations!” and the surreptitious glance to see how much weight you’ve put on, is the long, long list of things that you should avoid for the next nine months. The advice is almost always well-meaning, and some of it may even be helpful. But a fair amount will either no longer be believed to be accurate or never was true in the first place.

Smoking is, of course, on the list, as it should be. Any substance the CDC says does damage to every organ in the body and is the leading cause of preventable death should be kept far away from a developing fetus, as well as everyone else. Alcohol has always been on the list but there have been studies questioning the need for total abstention. Still, is it worth the risk? Raw meat and several different types of seafood, raw eggs and some types of cheese are considered potentially harmful. It is a perfect time to get someone else to paint the kitchen and clean out the kitty litter so that you aren’t exposed to toxic fumes and parasitic diseases.

These and other similar types of restrictions are fairly standard. Even if you love sushi and hate the way your spouse trims the molding, they are not all that difficult to manage for a finite length of time. There is, however, a common restriction that is far more problematic and that is whether or not to take antidepressants while pregnant. Even worse, it is all but impossible to find professional guidance as to whether discontinuing the medication will actually benefit or harm your baby.

When it comes to drugs and their side effects there are few, if any, absolutes. No medication is considered a hundred percent safe during pregnancy. Despite multiple studies, research findings and the overall consensus on the effects of antidepressants on an unborn baby are mixed and inconclusive. There are studies that have found short-term breathing issues in newborns whose mothers used SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), with familiar names like Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro but the symptoms appeared to be short-lived and likely withdrawal symptoms from no longer being exposed to the drug after birth. The pattern seems to be that where one study finds a particular antidepressant causes one type of risk, another finds that it doesn’t.

What makes it even more difficult a choice is that there is also a strong case for the use of anti-depressants during pregnancy. According to the American Council of Obstetricians and Gynecology, one in seven adults will suffer from depression at some point in their lives, and nearly 20 percent of women experience depression while pregnant. When someone is depressed, they have elevated levels of stress hormones. During pregnancy, these are passed through to the baby.  It has also been found that women who were depressed during pregnancy and did not take medication for it had higher rates of preterm deliveries of C-sections.  

While there is no clear consensus on the benefits and dangers of taking antidepressants while pregnant, many experts do agree that taking them would likely be better for the mother and baby if any of the following is true:

  • There is a history of severe or recurrent depression
  • There is a history of other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder
  • There is a history of suicidal thoughts or attempts

There may come a time when there has been enough research and sufficient refinement of drugs to make prescribing antidepressants during pregnancy a safe decision. Until that day comes, this will continue to be a very personal decision made through consultation with medical professionals. If you have become wrongfully prescribed antidepressants you may have a product liability case, contact us today.

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