Conventional wisdom has been for women who are taking antidepressant medication, to stay on it even while pregnant. Try to discontinue such medications can often be a long, slow process that has its own ups and downs. (Ask anyone who’s ever been on antidepressant for a year or more — it’s not fun trying to get off of it.)
It turns out, though, that conventional wisdom is largely wrong. Most infertile women who are taking popular antidepressants — such as Prozac, Paxil or Celexa — would help their unborn child by discontinuing the medication. With one exception — those women who are suffering from a severe depression (versus mild or moderate depression).
Why? Those women taking antidepressants nearly double the risk of a miscarriage if they stay on them during their pregnancy.
Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Tufts Medical Center and MetroWest Medical Center conducted an extensive literature review to determine what the impact of taking antidepressants was on an infertile woman’s and baby’s health.
It turns out that, except for severe depression, most moms would probably benefit from discontinuing their antidepressant medication during their pregnancy.
As the researchers note, “there is no evidence of benefit, no evidence that these drugs lead to better outcomes for moms and babies.”
Whether antidepressants have any long-term mental health effects on children exposed in utero remains an unanswered question. Nearly a third of newborns born to mothers who took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors develop a condition called “newborn behavioral syndrome” that causes jitteriness, feeding problems, and inconsolable crying during the first few days or weeks after birth. In some cases, babies develop severe breathing difficulties and require a breathing tube.
“Newborn behavioral syndrome is very rare in babies who aren’t exposed to these drugs,” said Urato; it usually resolves on its own after a short period of time.
Keep in mind, these recommendations are only for women who have mild or moderate clinical depression, not severe depression. And the study specifically looked at only infertile women, who may be undergoing infertility treatment in order to get pregnant (which is not most moms).
Nobody should ever discontinue any prescribed medication without first consulting with their doctor (including antidepressants).
If you’re a pregnant mom taking an antidepressant and have concerns raised by this newest research, please, talk to your doctor. Many effective treatment alternatives exist, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
And of course, untreated depression in a mom is a serious issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly. While nobody is recommending moms go off of an antidepressant medication while pregnant, it is a frank discussion one should have with one’s doctor when one gets pregnant.
Read our writeup: Study Cautions Against SSRI Antidepressants During, Before Pregnancy
Read the full Globe article: Antidepressant risks during pregnancy lead to tough treatment decisions – Health & wellness