Mothers-to-be carry many health concerns along with the little ones growing inside them. From choosing the most nutritious foods and vitamins to cutting out poor health habits, pregnant women understandably obsess about what they put into their bodies.
One of the biggest concerns has been the effect of antidepressants on infant development, much to the added despair of women suffering from depression. But now there is hope.
A new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry builds on the growing body of research showing that selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have no significant effect on infant growth and development. A separate study published earlier this month in the same journal also shows that SSRI use is not correlated with an increase in the risk of stillbirth or infant mortality.
While questions remain, the more information women have at their disposal, the more freedom they have take charge of their mental health, even while pregnant.
Times are Changing
Antidepressants have long been considered off-limits for pregnant women because of potential harm to their unborn children. But as research conducted at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine suggests, women who use SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy have little to fear.
Northwestern researchers found no significant growth differences from birth to 12 months of age between babies whose mothers used SSRIs and those whose mothers did not.
"Most women want to know about the effect of their depressive illness or the medication they take during pregnancy not only on the infant at birth, but also on the baby's longer-term growth and development," said lead author Katherine L. Wisner, M.D. in a press release. "This information may help women balance the risks and benefits of continuing their antidepressant treatment during pregnancy."
This could come as a relief to women who feel they must decide between taking care of their mental health and offering their child the best possible outcome. And the importance of treatment for depression can’t be understated, especially during pregnancy.
The researchers noted that many pregnant women opt to halt psychotherapy and medication, and often do not resume care after their child is born, leading to relapse. Depression in and of itself is harmful, and does no good for either mother or child.
Making an Important Health Decision
Not all research on the effects of SSRIs on infant health has been positive, but women must also consider the consequences of not treating their depression while pregnant.
For example, the researchers noted that women suffering from untreated depression before giving birth are likelier to give birth to smaller babies.
A highly personal issue, women should take all available information into account and consult with medical professionals about taking antidepressants during pregnancy. However, this is true of all medications, which must be assessed for possible pregnancy-related complications.