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Do Antidepressants During Pregnancy Cause Birth Defects

Do Antidepressants During Pregnancy Cause Birth Defects (2)

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Pregnancy blues might not sound new to you. But depression during Pregnancy is something that is pretty unheard of. Perhaps is not as uncommon as you might think. Did you know that about 23% of pregnant women experience depression during pregnancy? Apparently, screening for depression during pregnancy is on the rise. But is it safe to treat a woman for depression during pregnancy, which would necessitate the use of antidepressants while a woman is carrying?

As per a report from the CDC, approximately one million pregnant women in the US take recourse to antidepressants during pregnancy (1). It was found that at least 15.4% of 5.8 million records of women who are privately insured and are of reproductive age were taking antidepressants. Considering that there are about 7.5 pregnancies in the US each year, half of which are unplanned pregnancies (2), the likelihood of higher numbers of pregnancies with the use of antidepressants has been reported (3).

As of now researchers suggest a probability of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRISs acting as teratogens or birth defect causing agents. The possible Birth Defects could be heart or brain malformations. At least four of the commonly prescribed antidepressants are SSRIs. They are sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), and fluoxetine (Prozac). The CDC feels the need for better research on the safety of the use of an antidepressant during pregnancy. However, it can be pretty challenging.

A few scholars believe that most SSRIs are well studied and that they are not teratogens. As it may seem most literature does not indicate findings of the SSRIs causing any birth defects. Even if they did, they did so in an inconsistent manner and with low levels of risk. Pro-SSRIs suggest that one understands where to draw the line between a likely association and the cause and effect of these birth defects involving the use of SSRIs. A more meaningful approach has been called for.

On the other hand, the use of medication such as valproic acid or Depakote that finds no mention in literature has shown known association with substantial risk of neural tube defects or poor neurocognitive outcomes for children. Valproic acid is usually prescribed for seizure disorders, migraines, and bipolar disorders. Moreover, the neural tube is formed very early in pregnancy. So the damage would have already been done even before a woman learns about her pregnancy.

The authors of the CDC report also point to the fact that a clinician should weigh out the administration of these antidepressants against not treating at all. For one, depressed women might indulge in binge or heavy drinking or chain smoking which could pose risks to the developing fetus during pregnancy. Secondly, in the case of severe depression, not treating it might also cause damage to the fetus.

It makes it imperative to consider your mental state when you want to conceive. If you are experiencing depression, you might want to bring it to the notice of your doctor and review the condition. If you are diagnosed with a mental health issue, such as anxiety, talk to your doctor as to what sort of antidepressants you can take before conception or during pregnancy.

It is a known fact that you must be cheerful during pregnancy. If you have bouts of depression this time around, it might affect your baby as well. Research the range of treatments that is available or the treatment options that your nearest healthcare center can provide you. Having said that, you might only benefit from antidepressants while trying to keep potential risks to the fetus at bay. But you need to know what medication is safer than others, the best way to which is to talk to your doctor.


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Do Antidepressants During Pregnancy Cause Birth Defects


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