Pregnancy is usually a time of excitement and anticipation, though joy may be overshadowed by worry for the 10 to 15 percent of pregnant women who struggle with depression. Moms-to-be can take heart—a new study shows that taking antidepressants during pregnancy does not raise the risk of cardiac defects in babies.
UR Medicine high-risk pregnancy expert Dr. Eva K. Pressman says the study offers reassurance that antidepressants are safe to use in pregnancy, even in the first trimester. It’s an important revelation since depression is common in women during childbearing years. Antidepressants are used in eight to 13 percent of pregnancies.
Previous studies of antidepressant use in pregnancy have raised concerns about certain medications and fetal cardiac defects. As a result, patients and their doctors have had to balance the risks and benefits of these medications in ways that may have caused undue harm and stress to the women without actual benefit to the fetuses.
The new study, published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, tracked a large population of pregnant woman along with their prescription information, providing a more accurate picture than in prior studies that relied on patients reporting what they recalled taking. Researchers also looked at patients’ diagnosis of depression and other underlying medical conditions, for a more complete picture of the medications’ effects.
If a baby is in your future, it’s wise to talk with your doctor to plan the best approach for your mental health care before, during, and after pregnancy. Most medications—including those reviewed in this study—can be safely continued in pregnancy.
Eva K. Pressman, M.D., is The Henry A. Thiede Professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at URMC and UR Medicine’s director of Maternal Fetal Medicine.