Antidepressant Medications during Pregnancy

Is it safe to take antidepressant medication during pregnancy?

Antidepressant medications pass across the placental barrier, potentially exposing the developing fetus to the medication. Some research suggests the use of SSRIs during pregnancy is associated with miscarriage and/or birth defects, but other studies do not support this.Some studies have indicated that fetuses exposed to SSRIs during the third trimester may be born with “withdrawal” symptoms such as breathing problems, jitteriness, irritability, difficulty feeding, or hypoglycemia     Although some studies suggest that exposure to SSRIs in pregnancy may have adverse effects on the infant, generally they are mild and short-lived, and no deaths have been reported. On the flip side, women who stop taking their antidepressant medication during pregnancy increase their risk for developing depression again and may put both themselves and their infant at risk.

In light of these mixed results, women and their doctors need to consider the potential risks and benefits to both mother and fetus of taking an antidepressant during pregnancy, and make decisions based on individual needs and circumstances. In some cases, a woman and her doctor may decide to taper her antidepressant dose during the last month of pregnancy to minimize the newborn’s withdrawal symptoms, and after delivery, return to a full dose during the vulnerable postpartum period.

Is it safe to take antidepressant medication while breastfeeding?

Antidepressants are excreted in breast milk, usually in very small amounts. The amount an infant receives is usually so small that it does not register in blood tests. Few problems are seen among infants nursing from mothers who are taking antidepressants. However, as with antidepressant use during pregnancy, both the risks and benefits to the mother and infant should be taken into account when deciding whether to take an antidepressant while breastfeeding.