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Antidepressants During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?

Medically reviewed by Ann Guevarra MD, OB-GYN Diplomate, POGS · Obstetrics and Gynecology


Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jul 29, 2022

    Antidepressants During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?

    Antidepressants are drugs used to treat depression. However, whether to take the treatment during pregnancy or not is a difficult decision. While antidepressants come with side effects, untreated depression can harm both you and your baby.

    Pregnancy and depression: what is the link?

    People once believed that the hormones released during pregnancy can protect you against depression. That is no longer believed to be the case.

    antidepressants during pregnancy

    Pregnancy is a beautiful phase in a woman’s life; it is also the time when a woman faces multiple emotions including excitement, joy, confusion, fear, stress, and even depression. In addition, many problems and symptoms of pregnancy can trigger emotional and mental issues, making it hard for you to deal with depression. 

    If you have mild depression and you have not noticed symptoms for at least six months, you may be able to stop taking antidepressants before or during pregnancy. But you should keep in touch with your doctor to make sure your depression does not harm you and your baby. You may be able to cope with depression without medications. Here are some simple tips:

    • Reduce stress
    • Do exercises such as walking, swimming, or yoga
    • Do not stay home all day. You should go outside. Walking around the neighborhood is a good idea.

    However, if your depression is severe and if you have a history of severe depression or mental illness, suicidal tendencies, you may be recommended to take antidepressants. In addition, be sure to comply with minimum health standard protocols while doing any activities to avoid unwanted infections during pregnancy.

    Risks of using antidepressants during pregnancy

    When you take any medication during pregnancy, there are always some risks. The same applies to antidepressants. 

    Possible side effects of antidepressants during pregnancy include:

    • Birth defects: problems with the heart, spinal cord, brain, skull, abdominal organs, and limb malformation
    • Pulmonary arterial hypertension – a serious condition in which the baby has high blood pressure in the arteries that go from the heart to the lungs. This problem can get worse over time as the baby grows up
    • Miscarriage
    • Preterm delivery. The baby may be born before 37 weeks of pregnancy
    • Low birth weight. The newborn may weigh less than 2,500 grams
    • The newborn may have a number of health problems, including breathing problems, feeding problems, irritability, and low blood sugar level. After delivery, the newborn may have to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for a few days. Fortunately, these side effects may not cause long-term problems.

    Complications of untreated depression during pregnancy

    Although antidepressants may cause some side effects, uncontrolled depression has consequences. Those with depression are more prone to suicidal thoughts. They may not take proper care of themselves. Nor do they not eat healthy foods. They may also skip meals.

    In addition, you may drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use drugs. These actions can harm both you and your baby.

    Miscarriage, birth defects, preterm birth, or low birth weight are reported in women who stopped taking antidepressants during pregnancy.

    Untreated depression can also affect your family and your relationships. You may not want to take care of your older children and your husband anymore. You may feel tired all day and you do not have enough energy to take part in daily activities with your family. Plus, the bond between you and your baby will be affected, too.

    Medications that are considered safe during pregnancy

    The antidepressants mentioned below are generally considered safe for pregnant women. However, always consult with your doctor regarding your medications.

    • Certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): citalopram, fluoxetine, and sertraline.
    • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): duloxetine and venlafaxine.
    • Bupropion: This antidepressant is usually prescribed if you have not responded to other medications. 
    • Tricyclic antidepressants: amitriptyline and nortriptyline.

     

    Disclaimer

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Ann Guevarra MD, OB-GYN Diplomate, POGS

    Obstetrics and Gynecology


    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jul 29, 2022

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