Image courtesy of Women's College Research Institute
What happens if you take antidepressant medications and want to get pregnant? Women’s College Hospital head of psychiatry and senior scientist Dr. Simone Vigod weighs in.
Many people with this common mood disorder share this worry. In fact, 10 percent of people that become pregnant have experienced depression or have taken antidepressant medication in the year prior to becoming pregnant. In recent years, numerous studies have looked at commonly used antidepressants such as SSRIs and the effects they might have on a developing fetus. The decision to either continue antidepressant treatment or stop while pregnant both come with potential risks, and we understand that there will always be some uncertainty accompanying whichever choice you decide to make.
Untreated depression during pregnancy has been associated with risks like preterm birth and childhood emotional difficulties as well as risks for the pregnant person. Pregnant people with depression are more likely to develop postpartum depression and to engage in smoking and substance use. People who take antidepressants, as well, are more likely to have severe depression and may have more stressful life circumstances, which may contribute to poor pregnancy outcomes if left untreated.
And while studies have shown that SSRIs do not pose a major risk to the developing fetus, we cannot say there’s zero risk. In addition, many people feel incredibly guilty about taking a medication that could potentially harm their child.
To help people make an informed choice about antidepressant use in pregnancy, an interactive online patient decision tool evaluates which risks and benefits are most significant to individuals. The tool helps make an effective decision that you’ll feel comfortable with, leading to improved outcomes for parent and baby overall.