Antidepressants During Pregnancy
You have just found out your pregnant, but what about the medications you are on? How will they affect an unborn baby? One of the most frequent question regarding fetal harm and medication use is with antidepressants. Many doctors advise to stop these medications during pregnancy, but that may not be necessary.
Studies have shown that there is generally no need to taper off antidepressants when pregnant. Also, untreated depression may cause more harm to the unborn child. Untreated depression in the mother can lead to preterm birth and low birth weight. Babies of depressed mothers also have higher levels of cortisol. This increases the risk of the baby developing depression, anxiety and behavioral disorders later in life.
Have said this, while it is not widely thought that antidepressants cause birth defects, they still may affect the baby. About 30% of babies who had a mother that took an SSRI (Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Paxil) while pregnant experience neonatal adaptation syndrome. This can cause jitteriness, irritability and respiratory distress. However, it is unknown if this is from the effect of the drug or the withdrawal of the baby from the SSRI after birth. Doctors might run a few tests, but this syndrome will go away. These symptoms can also happen when a mother doesn’t take an SSRI.
Remember, medication risks typically are not greater than those of an untreated mental illness. It is very important to talk with you Primary Care Provider or OB-GYN and weigh the risks of the medication vs. the risks of untreated disease and make the best decision for your specific situation.