Antidepressants and Pregnancy

You’ve likely heard a great deal about postpartum depression, but how about prenatal depression? The term refers to experiencing depression during pregnancy. According to a 2018 study, young women today are over 50% more likely to experience it than their mothers were in the 1980s and 1990s.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) also reports that somewhere between 14-23 percent of women in the United States are affected by prenatal depression. It’s a topic that isn’t frequently discussed, but is certainly not uncommon. At Viera Fertility, we want you to know that if you’re struggling with prenatal depression, you are not alone.

Our Melbourne fertility center hears one particular question from expectant mothers who have depression symptoms: Is it safe to take antidepressants during pregnancy? Whether you’ve been taking an antidepressant for some time or you’re considering getting a prescription for one, it’s an excellent question.

Pregnancy and Depression

Pregnancy, and often the journey to become pregnant, is a long and winding road even under the best circumstances. There are many significant changes happening physically, mentally, and emotionally, so it isn’t difficult to understand why moms-to-be may struggle with prenatal depression.

It is crucial, however, to seek professional help if you suspect that you may be depressed. There’s a direct correlation between untreated depression during pregnancy and an increased risk of negative effects on the unborn baby. These can include low birth weight, stunted fetal development, and premature birth. The risk of the mother experiencing postpartum depression also increases if prenatal depression goes untreated.

Are Antidepressants Safe During Pregnancy?

Antidepressants are one of the most common methods to treat depression of any kind. Fortunately, several are deemed safe for pregnancy. However, like any medication, there are some risks you should be aware of, including a slightly higher chance of preterm birth. It’s critical to speak with your fertility doctor and psychiatrist about specific medications, as well as your individual pregnancy.

There are a couple of types of antidepressants that are widely prescribed to pregnant women. This is because there are no links to any complications.

Common Prescribed Antidepressants

  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors): These are the most commonly-prescribed antidepressants for expectant mothers and include Celexa and Zoloft. There is one SSRI, Paxil, that is not considered safe for pregnancy. Some data suggests links to a small, increased risk for fetal heart defects.
  • SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors): SNRIs are also frequently prescribed during pregnancy, and the best-known are Effexor XR and Cymbalta.

There are other types of antidepressants that are generally safe for pregnancy, but not as common as SNRIs and SSRIs. These aren’t typically first- or even second-line treatment options. They are most often prescribed to pregnant women who haven’t responded to other antidepressants.

Other Types of Antidepressants (Not as Common)

  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Nortriptyline (Pamelor) and Desipramine (Norpramin) are widely prescribed. However, Clomipramine (Anafranil) isn’t recommended, as it may be associated with heart and birth defects.
  • Wellbutrin (Bupropion): Some doctors may prescribe Wellbutrin. However, limited data indicates it may be associated with fetal heart defects and miscarriage.

Additional risks with any antidepressants, particularly when taken during the last trimester, include withdrawal symptoms in newborns. These symptoms can last up to a month after birth. These may present as irritability, poor feedings, and shakiness.

If you’re particularly concerned about taking antidepressants during your pregnancy, therapy is an excellent alternative. It’s highly effective, and the potential risk of complications – however small it may be – is completely eliminated.

Deciding on the best treatment method for depression is never easy, and that’s especially true during pregnancy. The risks and benefits of taking antidepressants must be carefully weighed against the risks associated with untreated depression.

Contact Viera Fertility Center

If you’re pregnant or even considering getting pregnant and struggling with depression-like symptoms, please contact us to schedule an appointment. We’ll help you make an informed decision that will be the best for both you and your baby. Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone.