Depression Dilemma: To Treat or Not to Treat?
Should women continue treating their depression during pregnancy or stop until after Baby is born? That’s the question, but what is the answer?
Women being treated for depression often face a very troubling decision when they become pregnant: continue taking an antidepressant medication, even though certain drugs for depression may carry side effects, or stop medication use altogether and possibly see their depression symptoms return.
Which choice is better? The answer just became a little less clear after the release of research from the Netherlands that finds women who use antidepressants and women who leave their depression untreated during pregnancy both have increased chances for running into certain problems. According to the study, women who take popular SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy (including Prozac® and Zoloft®) are more likely to have babies with reduced head size and are twice as likely to have a preterm birth. However, moms-to-be whose depression is left untreated are more likely to have babies born with a reduced head size, too, and are also more likely to have a baby born with a smaller body size.
So what’s best for you? First of all, as the March of Dimes reminds women, do not stop taking your medication until you and your OB-GYN has the chance to talk about the risks vs. benefits of antidepressants as they pertain to the health of your pregnancy. Some moms-to-be with moderate to severe depression may be better off continuing treatment for the sake of their own health and ability to care for their pregnancies. And, as researchers stress, the number of women using SSRIs who develop complication is still relatively small.
“The overall picture is that this class of medications is not a huge problem in pregnancy and the effects of not getting treatment and feeling depressed during pregnancy and with a young baby should be taken into account,” says Dr. Henning Tiemeier from Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, one of the study’s lead researchers (via the Chicago Tribune).
As many as 8 percent of all women in the US take antidepressants during pregnancy, Time magazine reports. However, if you and your provider reach the conclusion that it’s best to avoid medication (especially in cases of mild depression), still make the effort to look into treatment alternatives, including talk therapy. This is supposed to be one of the happiest times in your life, mama! Meeting with a trained counselor can help you come up with strategies and coping skills to help you feel good through birth and beyond.
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