Although untreated depression is associated with high rates of mortality and morbidity, many women either are reluctant to start antidepressants or discontinue antidepressants when they become pregnant due to fear of potential adverse effects on the developing fetus. These fears are mostly unfounded as there is no scientific evidence to suggest that a developing fetus would be affected by antidepressant drugs.
Previous studies have suggested that tricyclic antidepressants and fluoxetine may be safe when taken during the first trimester of pregnancy, but the long-term effects on children were unknown. Using standard tests, the children’s IQ, language, behavior, and temperament were assessed between the ages of 15 and 71 months.
Neither tricyclic antidepressants nor fluoxetine adversely affected the child’s neurodevelopment. The results of this study are helpful in reassuring pregnant women and their healthcare providers that the use of tricyclic antidepressants or fluoxetine throughout pregnancy does not adversely affect the child’s IQ, language, or behavioral development.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs) should be used cautiously as some data signaling potential dangers has emerged. Some recent studies have suggested that paroxetine, an SSRI, may be associated with a small increase in risk of congenital abnormalities, particularly cardiac defects.
Data on the effect of SSRIs related to the incidence of preterm birth, spontaneous abortion, and fetal death are conflicting. Third-trimester exposure to newer antidepressants, including SSRIs and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), has been associated with a poor neonatal adaptation syndrome. In addition, SSRI use may be associated with an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn. Preliminary evidence suggests that SSRI exposure in utero does not have significant long-term effects on cognition or behavior
Over the last 10 years, numerous studies have been conducted to see if different kinds of drugs could cause different effects on unborn children. Researchers have looked at the potential for antidepressants to cause a fetus to be stillborn. They have also looked at the possibility that these medications could cause developmental disorders.
Different studies produce different results, but they all seem to agree that antidepressants are safe for pregnant mothers. A recent study done by Dr. Olaf Stephanson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm suggests that there is no reason why pregnant women should discontinue their medication because they fear harming their unborn child.
Up to now, there has been little conclusive research to support the concept that antidepressant medications actually have the potential to do harm to an unborn child.
After a child is born, breastfeeding may be of concern, as recent scientific research on the effect of antidepressants on the breast milk of mothers prescribed these medications has indicated that some amount of drug will be excreted into the breast milk. This means that nursing infants will be exposed to small amounts of drug and drug metabolites.
Whether dealing with gestation or infancy nursing, prescription antidepressants are safe to use for nursing mothers or gestating mothers. There is probably a greater risk to mothers who discontinue using them than there is to their offspring.
- Fleishman, Jeffrey. “In Yemen, Chewing Khat Offers Ritual and Repose.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 05 Jan. 2013. Web. 07 Jan. 2013.
- Knowles, Sandra. “Antidepressant Safety in Pregnancy.” Pharmacy Practice 19.3 (2003): 28. ProQuest Biology Journals. Web.
- “Pediatric Drugs.” Antidepressants and Breast-Feeding: A Review of the Literature 2.3 (2010): 183-92. Ingetaconnect. Web. 8 Jan. 2013.
Filed under: Alcohol and Drugs, Research · Tags: antidepressant drugs, antidepressants, breastfeeding, cardiac defects, congenital abnormalities, depression, neonatal adaptation syndrome, persistent pulmonary hypertension, pregnancy, prenatal research, prescription antidepressants, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, SNRI, SSRI