Should you take depression medication during your pregnancy?

Postpartum depression is a possibility following your pregnancy. For some mothers, though, depression is a constant problem that affects them regardless of their responsibilities as a parent. Medication can help some of their symptoms, but women who use drugs to treat their condition may not be considering how this can affect their developing child.

According to The Times-News columnist Anthony Komaroff, M.D., you may be risking your fetal development if you use a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, to treat your depression. He stated that you can continue taking an SSRI, but there is a small risk of your child being born with heart defects or respiratory problems. Your baby may also experience withdrawal, and you could potentially have a miscarriage or premature birth. Komaroff also noted that Paxil is considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be completely unsafe to use during pregnancy.

Komaroff emphasized that the risk is minor, but he suggested a few other ways you can treat the condition for the length of your pregnancy. If you feel the need to take an SSRI, you can reduce the dosage or increase the length of time between doses. He also suggested that talk therapy with either your family or one-on-one with a therapist can keep you positive while you're waiting to give birth. Behavioral therapy focused on helping you think positively and solving problems may also let you eliminate SSRIs while you're expecting. Additionally, you can exercise and meditate to treat your symptoms. 

For mild to moderate depression, Komaroff felt that psychotherapy might be enough to treat the condition, though more severe cases will probably require the continued use of medication.

Going without treatment may also have its risks
You should also weigh the risks of using medication against the problems associated with depression. If you quit using an SSRI and don't otherwise treat your condition, your baby might be born underweight and with a lethargic, irritable attitude. You should also consider how you might change once you're off the drugs. Consulting with your physician, therapist and family can help you inform your decision.

A recent University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine also identified a few issues associated with depressed, pregnant women. While the school's research focused on sleep problems, it identified an increased amount of cytokines in depressed, expecting mothers. Cytokines help alert your immune system to problems, but this can cause inflammation that leads to pre-term birth or other complications. Women with this condition were identified as more likely to be sleep-deprived, so finding a way to get a good night's rest might help you have a simple, healthy pregnancy.

Were you on depression medication before your pregnancy? Did you have to quit taking it until your baby was born? Leave us a comment and let us know!