The use of antidepressants during pregnancy is a controversial topic when considering the mental health of the mother, as well as the physical health of the baby. Women with depression may have an increased risk of harming the fetus if they continue to take certain antidepressants during pregnancy. However, depression itself can also harm your baby.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your health care provider about all of your options.
Depression and Pregnancy
Many women battling with depression are prescribed antidepressants by their doctor to help manage symptoms. For years, it was thought that pregnancy protected against depression. This mentality was due to the shifting hormones in a woman’s body. However, scientists now understand that this is not the case; nearly one out of every 20 women who take antidepressants has taken them three months before they became pregnant or during the pregnancy.
The use of antidepressants during pregnancy is a topic that remains controversial because it is unknown what effects these drugs can have during fetal development. Antidepressants are known to cross the placenta, entering your baby’s bloodstream. It is also unknown whether or not some antidepressants remain in your child’s body after they are born.
Antidepressants and Pregnancy
Many doctors and health care providers recommend avoiding antidepressant use during pregnancy if at all possible. Although this may be the recommendation, this can sadly not be the case for each woman suffering from depression. The reality is, some severe cases of depression require medication to help keep the person alive. If you need to stay on antidepressants during pregnancy your doctor or provider will monitor your baby’s growth and development closely throughout the pregnancy.
In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public health advisory in regard to the use of antidepressants during pregnancy. This advisory talked about the possible risks of birth defects associated with antidepressant use. This prompted many women to stop using antidepressants altogether. However, studies show that up to one-third of pregnant women experience depression symptoms in the first trimester of pregnancy, beginning before they even realize they are pregnant.
During pregnancy, blood volume nearly doubles. This means that antidepressants are distributed to the baby through the placenta, which can lead to higher concentrations of medication in your baby’s body than their mother’s system.
There are many potential risks involved with anti-depressant use during pregnancy. If you take antidepressants, it is important to speak with your health care provider about the benefits and potential risks for yourself and your baby.
Some of the possible side effects associated with antidepressant use during pregnancy:
- May lead to miscarriage or stillbirth
- Can cause muscle problems in newborns.
- Restrict fetal growth, resulting in small or underweight babies
- Increased risk of birth defects such as cleft palate, heart problems, and limb malformations
In addition, babies exposed to antidepressants in the womb may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Breathing problems
- Trouble feeding
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Poor tone
Alternative Ways to Help Cope with Depression During Pregnancy
If you struggle with depression and are looking to steer clear of antidepressants during your pregnancy there are ways to help cope with your depression.
Some of these natural approached to depression include:
- Exercise more
- Spend time outdoors
- Practice yoga and meditation
- Minimize your stress
- Eat healthy
- Get plenty of sleep
If you have more questions regarding the health of your baby during pregnancy and your mental health contact Midwife360. Owner and certified midwife P. Fadwah Halaby and her team of midwives strive to take the holistic approach to gynecology and pregnancy services. We truly believe in empowering and educating each woman and family we care for. Contact Midwife360 with any questions or to schedule an appointment today.