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Facing Depression During Pregnancy

An important tool in fighting depression during pregnancy, antidepressants can help an expectant mother -- without hurting her unborn baby.
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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 symptoms."

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 pregnancy."

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.

Premature Labor?

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.

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