Antidepressant Use By Moms-to-Be May Raise Risk for Infant Breathing Problems
Taking an antidepressant in late pregnancy could increase a newborn's risk for certain lung problems. Here's what you need to know.
As if dealing with depression wasn’t difficult enough, when you’re depressed and pregnant, you may need to make some tough decisions about antidepressant use. Should you take an antidepressant during pregnancy, given what’s known about certain drugs for depression carrying side effects?
A new review study from Canada has found one more reason why taking time to answer this question is so important. According to researchers, using SSRI antidepressants in late pregnancy (after 20 weeks) could more than double a newborn’s odds for a rare lung complication, known as persistent pulmonary hypertension.
The number of babies born with the breathing problem appears to be very, very small—the review found that less than one percent of newborns (3.5 babies out every 1,000) are affected by the complication. In other words, 99.65 percent of all babies do not develop this problem.
“Women taking these medications in pregnancy should not panic. The risk is still quite low,” said lead researcher Dr. Sophie Grigoriadis, head of the Women’s Mood and Anxiety Clinic: Reproductive Transitions at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, in Toronto. Still, she added, “It should be one of the factors you consider when you decide to use medications, but it has to be balanced with the potential problems that can occur if you don’t treat depression.”
As many as one out of five women have symptoms of depression during pregnancy. When the condition is left untreated, it can lead to not enough weight gain by moms during pregnancy, trouble sleeping, missed appointments, and increased substance abuse risk. Babies born to women with depression may be more irritable, less active, and less attentive than other babies. According to the March of Dimes, they may also be born prematurely or have low birthweight.
For moms-to-be with milder forms of depression, treatment options such as therapy or counseling with a mental health professional may help, as can group therapy. However, most prenatal experts agree that some moms-to-be with moderate to severe depression might be better off continuing antidepressant treatment for the sake of their own health and ability to care for their pregnancies.
According to the March of Dimes, “Each woman and her health care providers must work together to make the best decision for her and her baby. The drugs used to treat depression have both risks and benefits.”
If you are taking an antidepressant and find that you are pregnant, do not stop taking your medication without first talking to your health provider. Call him or her as soon as you discover that you are expecting. It may be unhealthy to stop taking an antidepressant suddenly.
As Grigoriadis noted, “Decisions on treatment need to be personalized. Women need to make informed decisions by taking in all the risks of depression and its treatments.”
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