Use Of Psychotherapeutic Medications In Pregnancy

There is no doubt that the minimization of any and all chemicals is probably the safest for the child in-utero (both OTC drugs and prescribed drugs). I think the caution here is that we are talking about psychotherapeutic drugs that alter brain neurotransmitters to cause their therapeutic effects. What are the effects on the unborn child’s developing brain? How do we weigh that against the mother’s health and how that affects the unborn child? These are not easy questions and it shows the importance of pre-natal care and an open relationship with the obstetrician. The following is from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant

The research on the use of psychiatric medications during pregnancy is limited. The risks are different depending on what medication is taken, and at what point during the pregnancy the medication is taken. Research has shown that antidepressants, especially SSRIs, are safe during pregnancy. Birth defects or other problems are possible, but they are very rare.

However, antidepressant medications do cross the placental barrier and may reach the fetus. Some research suggests the use of SSRIs during pregnancy is associated with miscarriage or birth defects, but other studies do not support this.20 Studies have also found that fetuses exposed to SSRIs during the third trimester may be born with “withdrawal” symptoms such as breathing problems, jitteriness, irritability, trouble feeding, or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Most studies have found that these symptoms in babies are generally mild and short- lived, and no deaths have been reported. On the flip side, women who stop taking their antidepressant medication during pregnancy may get depression again and may put both themselves and their infant at risk.

In 2004, the FDA issued a warning against the use of certain antidepressants in the late third trimester. The warning said that doctors may want to gradually taper pregnant women off antidepressants in the third trimester so that the baby is not affected. After a woman delivers, she should consult with her doctor to decide whether to return to a full dose during the period when she is most vulnerable to postpartum depression.

Some medications should not be taken during pregnancy. Benzodiazepines may cause birth defects or other infant problems, especially if taken during the first trimester. Mood stabilizers are known to cause birth defects. Benzodiazepines and lithium have been shown to cause “floppy baby syndrome,” which is when a baby is drowsy and limp, and cannot breathe or feed well.

Research suggests that taking antipsychotic medications during pregnancy can lead to birth defects, especially if they are taken during the first trimester. But results vary widely depending on the type of antipsychotic. The conventional antipsychotic haloperidol has been studied more than others, and has been found not to cause birth defects.

After the baby is born, women and their doctors should watch for postpartum depression, especially if they stopped taking their medication during pregnancy. In addition, women who nurse while taking psychiatric medications should know that a small amount of the medication passes into the breast milk. However, the medication may or may not affect the baby. It depends on the medication and when it is taken. Women taking psychiatric medications and who intend to breastfeed should discuss the potential risks and benefits with their doctors.

Decisions on medication should be based on each woman’s needs and circumstances. Medications should be selected based on available scientific research, and they should be taken at the lowest possible dose. Pregnant women should be watched closely throughout their pregnancy and after delivery.

The last three sentences of the referenced article are a good way to proceed in this discussion:

  1. Decisions on medication should be based on each woman’s needs and circumstances.
  2. Medications should be selected based on available scientific research, and they should be taken at the lowest possible dose.
  3. Pregnant women should be watched closely throughout their pregnancy and after delivery.
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One Response to Use Of Psychotherapeutic Medications In Pregnancy

  1. Pam White says:

    I agree that women who are pregnant should always take every precaution to protect their babies from the unknown or known. Babies bodies are not design to handle hard narcotics or most prescribed drugs. Hopefully, if they are not able to stop taking the antidepressants or any other drugs, the doctors will monitor them carefully and regularly. Even prescribing a low dose could be a protential risk for the baby. Babies have enough to fight to make it into this life, they don’t need added factors in the equation. Birth defect can be caused by so many things, that you want to rule out as many determinating factors as possible. Hopefully every one will adhere to the instructions on the bottle and consult their doctors if they become pregnant.
    Also always ask your doctor or herbalist are their other alternative drugs to whatever particular problem you are having, that might be safer until the baby is born. We know most people taking antidepressants need these to maintain a balance in their daily lives, but there is always the possibility of something much safer.

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