Psychotherapy, Drugs Help Pregnant Women with DepressionDepression during pregnancy remains an unrecognized and under-treated concern. Last week, two professional groups joined together to issue new guidelines to help encourage the identification and treatment of depression during pregnancy.

The two groups — the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — noted that the research supports the use of psychotherapy (or “talk therapy”) and/or antidepressant medications to help pregnant women who are depressed.

“Depression in pregnant women often goes unrecognized and untreated in part because of concerns about the safety of treating women during pregnancy,” noted lead author of the guidelines, Dr. Kimberly Ann Yonkers of Yale University.

The guidelines were issued after the organizations conducted an extensive review of research on the topic.

Psychotherapy is a suitable alternative to antidepressant drugs for women with the most common types of depression. The report notes that psychotherapy has few of the side effects and possible complications that psychiatric medications do.

The report notes that there are drawbacks to the use of drugs for the treatment of depression while pregnant, including evidence that ties antidepressant drugs to possible birth defects and an increased likelihood of giving birth to a low-weight baby. The organizations suggest that mothers anticipating becoming pregnant should consider, in consultation with their doctor, discontinuing the use of antidepressants, especially if they have had few or no depressive symptoms for 6 months or longer.

But the guidelines also note that women with severe and/or recurrent forms of depression should talk to their doctor about continuing antidepressant medications during pregnancy.

The report notes that the decision of whether to stay on antidepressant medications or not during pregnancy is a decision that should be made in consultation with the woman’s doctor or psychiatrist — there is no “one answer fits all” situations. For instance, a pregnant woman who is severely depressed and left untreated might fail to keep up with the minimum necessary nutritional requirements for the baby’s health.

Women who are pregnant and who are not currently taking antidepressants may consider psychotherapy as a suitable alternative to antidepressants, according to the report. Pregnant women taking antidepressants may also benefit from psychotherapy, especially if they still suffer from depressive symptoms.

Source: American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists