A new study shows that antidepressants, once thought to be okay to take during pregnancy on a case-by-case basis, may cause preterm birth and the risk increases when antidepressants are used during the third trimester. The study was done by researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Nashville's Tufts University School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University. Since the use of antidepressants during pregnancy has increased in recent years to 7.5 percent in the United States, researchers decided to look into its relationship with premature birth, which has also increased over the past two decades and is the leading cause of infant mortality.
"We studied 41 papers on this topic and found that the available scientific evidence is becoming clearer that antidepressant use in pregnancy is associated with preterm birth," says Dr. Adam Urato, the senior author of the study and a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist at Tufts Medical Center and MetroWest Medical Center. "The complication of preterm birth did not appear to be due to the maternal depression, but rather it appears likely to be a medication effect."
The use of antidepressants in the United States has increased 400 percent over the past few decades. Depression is a very real and debilitating disease, and when combined with pregnancy, it can be all-consuming. It's crucial that women are open and honest with their care providers to obtain the best and safest care possible. Remember, don't ever make changes to your dose or quit taking any medication without first consulting with your care provider.
"Pregnant women with depression need proper treatment, and our results should not be seen as an argument to ignore depression in these patients. These drugs may be necessary in some pregnant women with severe depression in whom other approaches are inadequate," says the lead author, Reesha Shah Sanghani, M.D., MPH, of Vanderbilt University. "For many others, non-drug treatments, such as psychotherapy, will help and aren't associated with complications like preterm birth."
I'm deeply interested in this subject because I took antidepressants during three of my pregnancies, and my children were affected. In the past it was believed that it was safer to take antidepressants during pregnancy rather than suffer with severe depression. I can't say for sure that the medication caused the autism in two of my boys, since conflicting studies have been released in December 2013 and February 2014 regarding the connection between autism and antidepressants during pregnancy, but I believe my last child almost died because of antidepressants.
During an ultrasound, my doctor found that my son, Adam, had a tumor in the center lobe of his left lung, which eventually lead to the removal of the lower two-thirds of his right lung before puberty. The disease is called Congenital Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation (CCAM), and it had been linked to the antidepressants I took. It was so rare in 2005 that we couldn't find information on the Internet, and we had to contact the American Lung Association. Today, scores of websites are dedicated to CCAM, and no warning labels have been placed on the bottles of the type of antidepressants I took.
Now with this new study, I have to wonder if my son's preterm birth was also caused by the medication. Dr. Urato says: "Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant death, and it is also a major contributor to both short- and long-term illness." My son has significant vision problems, hearing difficulties and ADHD.