Will Medication in Pregnancy Hurt My Baby? Pregnant on Antidepressants

The Paxil package insert includes a 'Black Box' warning - young adults, teens, and children are at an increased risk of suicide when taking this medication. Image courtesy of GSK/Screenshot by Decoded Pregnancy

The Paxil package insert includes a ‘Black Box’ warning – young adults, teens, and children are at an increased risk of suicide when taking this medication. Image courtesy of GSK/Screenshot by Decoded Pregnancy

Maternal Depression and Medication During Pregnancy

Researchers have not extensively studied maternal depression; doctors have considered most changes hormonal in the past. This may be, but the extent of change within a woman can be severe, and there may be underlying reasons for depression as well. A medication or mood stabilizer may help save a woman’s life and her future baby, if she is experiencing severe depression.

Doctors have not extensively studied the effects of maternal depression and medication on the fetus either. Information comes as studies are collected on birth defects or reactions, and combined with information on what medications were given as well as the effects of depression itself. One study in American Journal of Psychiatry, March 2013 reported, “Depression in mothers is associated with premature birth and low infant birth weight, which increases the child’s risk of heart disease. Depression also affects the mother’s appetite, nutrition and prenatal care, and is associated with increased alcohol and drug use.”

Pregnancy: Risks of Depression vs. Medication

In all cases, doctors and patients weigh the risks of medication against the dangers of severe depression. Studies show risks including pre-eclampsia, persistant pulmonary hypertension, and neurobehavioral problems as well as fetal growth concerns. Discuss these potential issues with your obstetrician or midwife, and with your mental health caregiver or therapist before making any changes.


Espen Jimenez-Solem, M.D.; Jon Trærup Andersen, M.D.; Morten Petersen, M.D.; Kasper Broedbaek, M.D.; Anders Rune Lander, M.D.; Shoaib Afzal, M.D.; Christian Torp-Pedersen, D.M.Sc.; Henrik E. Poulsen, D.M.Sc. SSRI use during pregnancy and risk of stillbirth. (2012). Am J Psychiatry 2013;170:299-304.11081251. Accessed April 15, 2013.

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Preidt,R. Antidepressant Use in Pregnancy May not Affect Baby’s Growth. March 20,2013, NIH Medline Plus, Accessed Apr 15, 2013

Cooper, Willey, et al. Increasing use of antidepressants in pregnancy. (2007). American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology vol 196(6) p544. Accessed April 15,2013

Domar, A., Moragianni, V. et al. The Risk of Selective Seratonin Reuptake Use in Infertile Women. (2012). Human Reproduction, Vol.0, No.0 pp. 1–12, Accessed April 15, 2013.

GSK. PAXIL Prescribing Information. 2013. Accessed April 15, 2013.

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