What are the Effects of Using Antidepressants in Pregnancy?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2018
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The effects of using antidepressants in pregnancy vary depending on the type of antidepressant. Almost all antidepressants do pose some risk to unborn fetuses during pregnancy, but doctors occasionally recommend that women use them anyway if depression symptoms are severe enough. Some of the more popular antidepressants that may be risky to use during pregnancy are citalopram, fluoxetine, and paroxetine. Citalopram and fluoxetine are sometimes approved by doctors for use during pregnancy. Doctors almost always advise women to avoid paroxetine altogether during their pregnancies.

Using citalopram antidepressants in pregnancy might be risky because it can cause lung problems in newborns and additionally might cause birth defects in the brain and heart. In most cases, these problems are more likely to occur when citalopram is taken during the last trimester of pregnancy. Fluoxetine might also cause lung problems when taken during pregnancy, but again this is primarily a concern when taken later in pregnancy. Paroxetine is particularly dangerous because not only can it cause lung problems in late pregnancy, but it can also cause heart defects during the first trimester. For this reason, pregnant women are typically advised not to take it all.


Even though there are some risks associated with taking most types of antidepressants during pregnancy, the chances of effects on the baby are usually still very low. There may also be a risk to an unborn baby if a woman with severe depression leaves it untreated. She may not take proper care of herself, which could negatively affect her child. This puts both doctors and pregnant women in a difficult position, because it is often hard to determine if the benefits of treating depression outweigh the risks. A woman who does not treat her depression while she is pregnant may additionally suffer from very severe postpartum depression after she has her baby.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to use antidepressants in pregnancy must be carefully made by both a woman and her doctor. In many cases, a doctor may recommend that her patient avoid medication and opt for counseling to deal with her symptoms instead. This method is often effective for women who suffer from mild depression, but it may not be enough when depression is more severe. It is also not often recommended for a women to quit taking her antidepressants in pregnancy all at once if she has previously been on them for a long time. If it is a woman's desire to stop taking them altogether, doctors usually advise that she slowly wean herself off of them to avoid possible withdrawal symptoms.



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