Facing Depression During Pregnancy
An important tool in fighting depression during pregnancy, antidepressants can help an expectant mother -- without hurting her unborn baby.
Not Treating is Risky continued...
Untreated depression can interfere with a woman's ability to
care for herself, impair nutrition, increase the use of tobacco, alcohol, and
drugs, lead to premature labor and low birth-weight babies, and interfere with
bonding feelings with an unborn child.
Untreated major depression during pregnancy may also cause
infants to have an increased sensitivity to stress.
In cases of major depression, Hendrick explains to WebMD, women
need both psychotherapy and antidepressant medication.
"The more multidisciplinary the treatment, the more likely
they are to get better," says Hendrick. "Using both therapy and
medication greatly increases a woman's chance of seeing an improvement in her
Antidepressants Generally Safe
When the symptoms of depression warrant psychotherapy as well
as antidepressant medication, the good news is that certain drugs can help
treat depression with little to no risk to an unborn child.
"There is no evidence to suggest that taking
antidepressants during pregnancy comes with a risk of congenital defects, and
that's reassuring," says Hendrick. "But it is important to keep in mind
that we cannot say for sure that antidepressants are 100% safe to take during
According to a study published in the American Journal of
Psychiatry, women who took antidepressant drugs throughout their
pregnancies -- both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as
Prozac and Zoloft and tricyclic antidepressants -- had children with normal
pre-school and early-school development.
Data also suggested that, on the other hand, depressed,
untreated pregnant women and those suffering from long-term depression or
multiple episodes of depression can have children with behavioral problems and
delayed cognitive and language development.
A concern associated with medical treatment of depressed women
during pregnancy is the possible increase risk of premature labor. A review of
medical records showed women treated with SSRIs during pregnancy had a higher
risk of delivering their babies early, before 36 weeks, according to a study
published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
But the women in this study who were treated with another class
of antidepressants known as tricyclics had no increased risk of premature
birth. Researchers stressed the risk associated with SSRIs is not overwhelming
enough to warrant women not take antidepressants if their condition requires
medication. Also reassuring is that the study showed no risk of birth defects
associated with SSRIs.