Women undergoing the hormonal changes of pregnancy may struggle with depression.
The decision to use anti-depressants to treat major depression should
be made by the doctor and expectant mother with an understanding of the
risks of the drugs. A recent meta-analysis shows that the popular class
of anti-depressants known as SSRIs may be a dangerous choice for women
who are expecting, because the drugs could lead to negative health outcomes
SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are the most popular
class of antidepressant drugs in the U.S. They work by regulating the
uptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin. They have proven helpful in
battling depression for billions of people around the world. But the results
aren't positive for everyone who takes them.
Pulmonary Hypertension in Infants
Over the past several years, numerous studies have had conflicting results
on the dangers of SSRI use by pregnant women. Some have found no danger,
while others have recommended against their use by women who are expecting.
In the recent paper, 3,077 abstracts were reviewed, 738 papers selected,
and seven studies ultimately included to try and find a consensus.
Published in the medical journal
BMJ, the research found a significantly increased risk of pulmonary hypertension
in newborns whose mothers took SSRIs late in pregnancy.
Pulmonary hypertension in newborns is defined as the failure of the circulatory
system to transition following birth. After the baby leaves the womb,
its lungs must begin breathing air for the first time. Pulmonary hypertension
prevents this change from happening successfully. It can result in respiratory
distress, shock, heart murmurs, asphyxia, and
Duty to Warn
Because previous studies have come to conflicting conclusions on the use
of SSRIs by pregnant women, many doctors still allow their patients to
continue on an SSRI regimen well into their first, second, and third trimesters.
Given the rate of women who suffer from depression in this country, thousands
of unborn children may be at risk if their mothers take any of the following
drugs during pregnancy:
- Zoloft (sertraline)
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Paxil (paroxetine)
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
- Celexa (citalopram)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 take antidepressants.
Women are far more likely to take them than men. Of those suffering from
severe symptoms of depression, 39.9 percent of women take SSRIs compared
with 21 percent of men. More than 24 percent of women with only mild symptoms
take anti-depressants, compared with only 11.5 percent of men.
Because depression can be so debilitating and because pregnancy can come
with additional emotional and mental challenges, doctors often tell women
to stay on their antidepressants throughout the pregnancy despite the
risks. As a matter of fact, many women aren't warned of the risks.
Pharmaceutical companies and doctors alike have a duty to alert women to
the risks these potentially
dangerous medications pose to an unborn child. As this recent analysis shows, this highly popular
class of drug could have tragic implications when taken late in pregnancy.