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Doctors disagree on antidepressant use during pregnancy

Pregnancy involves both more time in a doctor's office and making changes to diet and medication. Yet what is a woman to do when the medical field is conflicted about the right advice regarding the use of antidepressants during pregnancy? Do the risks outweigh the benefits, or vice versa?

The debate over a specific type of antidepressant, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, seems to be ongoing, even in light of a recent study that states the risks of birth injury from taking such medication while pregnant are "substantial." The study's author, a doctor and chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at an East Coast medical center, says the use of SSRIs during pregnancy causes an increased risk of miscarriage, birth defects, preterm birth, newborn behavioral syndrome, pulmonary extension of the baby and longer-term neurobehavioral concerns. "The data is concerning," he said, adding he's looked at 41 studies regarding depression, SSRI use and preterm birth, all of which have consistent data.

Opponents in the medical field are saying "not so fast" and seeking to differentiate between cases of mild to moderate depression and severe depression. Women with mild to moderate depression may better pursue cognitive behavioral therapy, yet women with severe depression -- and their babies -- may be more at risk without medication during pregnancy. Among the concerns are severely depressed women missing doctor appointments, poor diet, lack of sleep, substance abuse and risk of suicide. A 2009 joint report of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Psychiatric Association states 14-23 percent of pregnant women will experience a depressive episode.

That study also determined women who had experienced mild or no symptoms of depression for at least six months may benefit from tapering off or ceasing to take antidepressants before becoming pregnant, though women with severe depression should continue with medication. However, it likewise noted that current research regarding antidepressant use during pregnancy has so far not controlled for all factors that may influence birth outcomes.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Antidepressants During Pregnancy Carry Risks, Study Says," Catherine Pearson, Nov. 14, 2012

  • Our firm handles cases of medical malpractice, including birth injuries caused by improper patient care. To learn more about our practice, visit our Newark birth injury page.

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