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Pregnant Women Should be Careful With Antidepressants

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says pregnant women who are suffering symptoms of depression must consider the consequences of treatment.

ACOG, in collaboration with the American Psychiatric Association, put out a report designed to help doctors and patients weigh the risks and benefits of various treatment options.

A description of the report on ACOG’s Website says: “Both depression symptoms and the use of antidepressant medications during pregnancy have been associated with negative consequences for the newborn.”

According to the Website, babies born to women with depression have increased risk for irritability, less activity and attentiveness, and fewer facial expressions compared with those born to mothers without depression.

Yet a number of studies have linked antidepressants categorized as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, with birth defects. SSRI antidepressants include Prozac and Zoloft.

Defects linked with SSRIs include:

  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension, a potentially life-threatening respiratory disorder.
  • Anencephaly, or birth without a forebrain.
  • Omphalocele, or birth with organs on the outside of the body.
  • Craniosynostosis, or the premature closing of the bones of the infant’s skull.
  • Delayed development of bones.
  • The most common heart defects identified in the studies were atrial and ventricular septal defects, which are conditions in which the wall between the right and left sides of the heart is not completely developed.

According to ACOG, depression is common during pregnancy and between 14 percent and 23 percent of pregnant women will experience depressive symptoms while pregnant. In 2003, approximately 13 percent of women took an antidepressant at some time during their pregnancy.

Women should consult with their doctors before making any change in their medication. But depending on the severity of the depression, ACOG makes a number of recommendations for women who are already or are trying to become pregnant. They include staying on the current dosage, reducing the dose or giving up the antidepressants altogether – with psychotherapy to help with the transition in the two latter options.

Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication. A consultation with an SSRI lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries.

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