Should I Take Antidepressants While Pregnant?
The question of antidepressant use during pregnancy is further complicated by thefact that carrying a child wreaks havoc on your hormones, in some cases actually causing depression in pregnant women who hadn't experienced symptoms previously.
Is it safe to take antidepressants while pregnant, though? Unfortunately, definitive research in this area is hard to come by, but the information that does exist points to the fact that antidepressants may be responsible for a number of birth defects.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
Known as SSRIs, this family of drugs encompasses most of the more common antidepressants on the market, including Prozac, Paxil and Lexapro. They manipulate the way serotonin is processed by the brain, raising the levels of mood-altering neurotransmitters like dopamine.
Like any other substance though, they are transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy through the placenta. SSRIs can have serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms in grown adults, so you don't have to be a scientist to see how that could translate to an infant's developing systems.
We already know, in fact, that antidepressants affect the teenage brain differently, even causing suicidal thoughts in those with no previous history of them. Teenagers' brains are far closer to fully developed than those of infants.
Birth Defects That May be Caused by Antidepressants
The research may not be definitive, but there is certainly evidence that taking antidepressants during pregnancy can result in serious birth defects, including defects of the heart, spinal cord and respiratory system.
As if that weren't frightening enough, respiratory issues in infants can lead to cerebral palsy, a condition that develops when the brain is deprived of oxygen. Those with cerebral palsy lose muscle function. In mild cases, this may result in tremors and difficulty walking without assistive technology. With more serious cases, the loss of muscle function can be extreme, leaving those affected unable to walk, care for themselves or even speak.
There is also evidence that antidepressant use during pregnancy can result in cleft palate, spina bifida or even autism.
Talk to Your OB/GYN Before Taking SSRIs During Pregnancy
If you are trying to conceive, and especially if you are already pregnant, make sure you have a serious conversation with your OB/GYN about antidepressant use. The research may be sparse, but the dangers are becoming clearer every day.
If your OB/GYN seems nonchalant about the topic, consider getting a second opinion. If you have already taken antidepressants during pregnancy, or if you took SSRIs while pregnant and your child was born with birth defects, don't blame yourself. Instructing you on which prescription medications to avoid while pregnant is your doctor's responsibility.
Depression is certainly a serious issue, and one that can be debilitating for many, so you and your doctor need to weigh the risks alongside the benefits you receive from these medications.
Medical science is always working to create better solutions though, so hopefully one day soon there will be a truly safe and effective method for dealing with depression during pregnancy.
by: Anne Nolan