Whether or not to take an antidepressant during pregnancy can be a difficult choice for moms-to-be who struggle with mood disorders. And according to at least one small study, almost 25 percent of pregnant women who decline or discontinue antidepressants do so out of fear that medications will negatively impact their unborn child.
The study, presented May 25, 2010, at a annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, included 59 pregnant women aged 18 to 45 years who met criteria for major depression—39 (77 percent) stayed on antidepressants during pregnancy, but 20 (23 percent) declined antidepressants, with concerns about fetal development cited as a major reason for discontinuing use.
"We found that women were very afraid to expose their fetus to medication, [and thus] frequently denied they were depressed," study investigator Dr. Shaila Misri says in an article on the study from Medscape Medical News. Interestingly, women with a higher yearly household income were more likely to decline medication, "which seems counterintuitive," she adds.
Approximately 12 percent of all women suffer from depression in pregnancy. According to the March of Dimes, depression, especially if it isn't treated, carries serious risks for pregnant women and their babies, including poor weight gain, preeclampsia, unhealthy eating habits, use of drugs or alcohol to self-medicate, suicide, and impaired ability to bond after birth.
If you are taking an antidepressant when you find that you are pregnant, the March of Dimes recommends to 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.