Pregnancy and antidepressants

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: December 10th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Antidepressants have helped millions of people cope with the debilitating effects of depression. But a new study suggests women may want to consider avoiding the drugs while pregnant.

The study showed that antidepressants, also known as selective serotonin [ser-oh-TONE-in] reuptake inhibitors, or S-S-R-Is, may increase the risk of early delivery and negatively affect a baby’s health at birth.

For the study, scientists analyzed data on more than fifty-seven-thousand pregnancies and deliveries at a hospital in Denmark between the years nineteen 1986 and 2006. The pregnancies were divided into three categories: mothers who took S-S-R-Is during pregnancy, mothers who were depressed but not prescribed antidepressants and those with no history of mental illness.

The three-hundred and twenty-nine women who took S-S-R-Is during their pregnancies delivered their babies five days earlier than the other women in the study, and had twice the risk of pre-term delivery. The babies whose mothers took S-S-R-Is were also two-point-four times as likely to have been admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit than infants who hadn’t been exposed to the drugs.

The antidepressants taken by the mothers included Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac and Paxil.

Unfortunately, studies have also shown that one in ten women will develop depression during pregnancy, which can also be harmful to both mother and baby. In addition, studies have shown that women who stop using S-S-R-Is during pregnancy have a greater chance of relapse into depression. So what should a mom-to-be do? Scientists recommend talking to your doctor to come up with solutions. In some cases, adequate nutrition and talk therapy with a psychiatrist may help alleviate the symptoms of depression without the use of S-S-R-Is.