Are Antidepressants Safe for My Unborn Baby?

If you are being treated for depression with the use of antidepressants and you are also pregnant, you have many factors to consider for the health of your unborn baby as well as yourself. The antidepressants you have been prescribed are aimed at alleviating your symptoms and keeping you as mentally healthy as possible, which also positively affects your physical health. However, there are many issues you need to address when it comes to your pregnancy and treating your depression with antidepressants.

Should I Treat My Depression During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy means that an entirely new surge of hormones is taking place in your body, and this can have significant effects on your mental health. While some women feel elated and enthusiastic during pregnancy, many, especially those who already deal with depression, find it more difficult to cope with everyday life.

Left untreated during pregnancy, depression can cause you to stop taking the essential care of your own body that your baby is depending on for healthy development. You might not put the priority on prenatal care, or turn to smoking or alcohol to deal with depression symptoms. These decisions put you and your baby at severe risks, and you can even increase your risk of postpartum depression.

It is essential that you put together a plan with your obstetrician for treating your depression during pregnancy. You will need to balance the benefits and the risks, but you do need to know that there are medicinal options that can treat your depression symptoms during pregnancy.

Although no medicine is without side-effects, there are a few treatment options that are generally considered safe.

  • Tricyclic antidepressants – i.e. Pamelor
  • A certain few selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – i.e. Celexa and Zoloft
  • Bupropion – i.e. Wellbutrin

The risks associated with these various medications need to be considered and discussed with your obstetrician; the reported and known side effects of the above medications are considerably lower than other common antidepressants on the market.

Those medications that are not considered safe for use during pregnancy include:

  • Paxil – It can cause heart defects for the infant when the pregnant mother takes it during the first trimester.
  • MAOIs – Monoamine oxidase inhibitors such as Parnate can cause developmental deformities and limitations in grown of the unborn baby, and also cause high blood pressure during pregnancy for the mother.

How Will Antidepressants Affect My Baby?

Even those medications that offer the fewest and most minor side effects can still affect your baby. After birth when you baby is no longer exposed to the medication in utero, your newborn might go through symptoms of withdrawal – such as irritability. It has not been proven to be effective at reducing these symptoms to have mothers reduce their dosages near the end of the last trimester. In fact, doing so could raise your risk of postpartum depression.

How Should I Treat Depression During Pregnancy?

Every pregnancy is different, and everyone who suffers from depression experiences it in slightly different ways – and these are often not entirely predictable. If you have been diagnosed with depression and are considering becoming pregnant, visit with your OBGYN to weigh all of your specific risks and to develop a plan for a healthy pregnancy, for you and your future child.

If you are already pregnant and not sure how to treat your depression, don’t dismiss the potential impacts of untreated depression. While there are several things you can do to alleviate depression symptoms, make sure you have a clear and honest discussion with your OBGYN about the treatment plan that is right for you and your child.





Dr. Gareth Forde

About Dr. Gareth Forde

An obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical professor, a researcher, and a father of five—and he delivered them all! He speaks and publishes extensively on maternal and child health issues, where he emphasizes the role of a healthy maternal lifestyle, good nutrition, and breastfeeding on infant development. He chose the field of obstetrics because it is a celebration of life, a happy and exciting profession. “Children are a blessing and they bring joy and laughter to the world,” he says. “I cherish my work, as a doctor and a dad.” The study of genetic imprinting is a major focus of both Dr. Forde’s research and medical practice. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth. “This field holds great promise, shedding light on many unsolved mysteries in health and disease from infancy to adulthood,” he adds. Dr. Forde grew up in London, England and Orlando, Florida. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and is currently pursuing a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to this, he practiced with Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, a consortium of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine—where he was a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. He also has a master’s in molecular and cellular biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; a Ph.D. in environmental science (computational chemistry) from Jackson State University; and a post-doctoral fellowship in biophysics from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.”