Pregnant mothers who suffer from depression are often prescribed anti-depressants to quell symptoms. According to a report in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, anti-depressant use grew to about 7.5% among pregnant women between 2006 and 2008, up from 5% between the years 2000 and 2002. Until 1990, less than 1% of pregnant women used anti-depressants in the first trimester.
Increasingly, studies are showing a connection between anti-depressants and birth defects. Children whose mothers used certain anti-depressants during pregnancy do face an increased risk of specific types of congenital defects that may be serious or even life-threatening.
If you are pregnant or are expecting to become pregnant, the best course of action is to consult your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking anti-depressants during pregnancy. For more information on anti-depressants and their affect on exposed babies, choose from the following pages:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRIs are anti-depressants that work by blocking a receptor in the brain that absorbs the chemical serotonin. Although the exact way in which SSRIs improve depression is not clear, it is known that they have the power to influence mood, outlook and behavior. Although SSRIs have their advantage in treating major or severe depression, there has been significant concern over whether they are safe to use during pregnancy. Multiple studies have shown connections between SSRI use and birth defects.
Heart and Lung Defects: Multiple studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine find links between use of SSRIs and 3 different types of heart defects. Research also shows that children exposed to SSRIs in utero faced a 6x increased risk of Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN), a condition where the newborn’s arteries to the lungs remain constricted after birth, limiting blood flow to the lungs and the amount of oxygen received by the body.
Abdominal, Skull and Other Defects: Children exposed to SSRIs face increased risks for cranial (skull) defects such as Craniosynostosis and abdominal defects, such as Omphalocele. Research has linked many other serious and even fatal defects to maternal use of certain anti-depressants.
Bupropion or Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors (NDRIs)
Wellbutrin is another kind of anti-depressant that may increase the risk for birth defects. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2010 established a link between early pregnancy Wellbutrin (generic: bupropion) use and left outflow tract heart defects. A left outflow tract defect disrupts blood flow from the heart’s left chambers to the rest of the body.