Treating depression during pregnancy, whether it’s a pre-existing condition or a new pregnancy symptom, has always been a complicated problem. Now, a new study found that women who take SSRIs, a specific class of drugs used to treat depression, can increase a woman’s chance of spontaneous miscarriage by over 60%.
This new study adds a new layer of concern to an already confusing conundrum. When women are depressed during pregnancy, they are at higher risk for pregnancy complications. Depressed pregnant women are less likely to get good prenatal care and eat a healthy diet. There are studies showing that depression and high levels of anxiety during pregnancy correlate with lower birth weight, which in turn correlates with other health issues.
But the information about the risks of medication is something to be anxious about in itself. The drugs have always considered iffy in pregnancy, but the results of this study are clearer than previous ones. So what’s a depressed pregnant woman supposed to do?
Well, for one thing, be sure to have a good relationship with a well-informed caregiver. Or caregivers. While an OB/Gyn or Midwife will have the greatest knowledge of what’s safe during pregnancy, a mental health professional will have more tools to deal with depression. Medications for depression vary, and not all fared equally in this study or in others.
Depression can be treated with various kinds of therapy. While drugs are often used in tandem with talk therapy or other treatments, maybe pregnancy will be one place where medication is not the first line of defense. It’s important to remember that pregnancy depression, like any depression, can be very serious, even life-threatening, if gone untreated or treated unsuccessfully. So as in all medical matters, it’s a question of weighing the risks of the treatment against the risk of the disease.
Photo: Paul Anderson