You're having a
baby—congratulations! Let the bliss
wash over you before hormones take over and destroy those precious memories. Just kidding. (Sort of.)
But what about
the rest of us, those relying on pharmaceuticals to get through the day, how do
we celebrate knowing the risk that
our unborn babies are taking each time we swallow that pill?
Tapering off antidepressants
safely takes months, and withdrawals—even in a best-case scenario—can be
unbearable. Imagine how intense they are when you find out you are pregnant and
quit taking them, cold turkey.
any rash decisions that can lead to serious health issues, you might want to take your mood swing
into the backyard and read this.
led by Indiana
University, in collaboration with researchers at Karolinska Institute in
Sweden and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, suggests that
antidepressants taken during early pregnancy DOES NOT increase the risk of their children developing autism or
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
knowledge, this is one of the strongest studies to show that exposure to
antidepressants during early pregnancy is not associated with autism, ADHD or
poor fetal growth when taking into account the factors that lead to medication
use in the first place," said Brian D'Onofrio, professor in the IU
Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain
the risks and benefits of using antidepressants during pregnancy is an
extremely difficult decision that every woman should make in consultation with
her doctor," he said. "However, this study suggests use of these
medications while pregnant may be safer than previously thought."
But hold onto that
flashlight, mom, we're not out of the woods just yet.
Though this new
discovery is inspiring, it doesn’t come without flaw. After analyzing other data, such as a mother's age at
childbearing, in siblings whose mothers used antidepressants during one
pregnancy (but not during another pregnancy), researchers found an increased
risk for premature birth.
ability to compare siblings who were differentially exposed to antidepressants
in pregnancy is a major strength of this study," D'Onofrio said.
"Most analyses rely upon statistical matching to control for differences
in factors such as age, race and socioeconomic status. But it's difficult to
know if you've made a perfect match because you can't be certain you have all
the relevant measures to control for these differences."
unrelated children and controlling for related risk factors, the odds were
determined to be 1.4 times higher for premature birth, 1.1 times higher for low
fetal growth and 1.6 times higher risk for autism and ADHD. Uncontrolled analysis, however, did not
consider these factors and showed slightly higher results.
examined several different antidepressants, including the most common type: selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline
(Zoloft) and citalopram (Celexa).
It also took
into account antidepressants used by fathers before pregnancy—not during—and
found them to be associated with increased risk for autism, ADHD and poor fetal
growth. As with the mothers, genetics and environmental circumstances can
affect the results of a father's assessment.
Bottom line: We
are all wired differently, with circumstances that a study may never fully
encompass. Be careful when taking—or
weaning yourself off—antidepressants, especially if you're pregnant. You should only do so under a doctor's care and supervision.