In 2006 pregnant women were cautioned against taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are commonly prescribed to treat depression. The recommendation was based on a single study that concluded that SSRIs taken after the 20th week of pregnancy increased a baby’s risk of developing persistent pulmonary hypertension six-fold. According to a recent FDA report, however, taking SSRIs in the second half of pregnancy has no effect on the risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension.

The FDA’s report recommends that doctors treat depressed pregnant women as needed with SSRIs and not worry that the these drugs may cause health problems in their babies. The patients and doctors should balance the risks from untreated depression during pregnancy with the possible health risks to the unborn baby.

Untreated depression during pregnancy increases the risks of low birth weight, preterm delivery, low Apgar scores, poor prenatal care and failure to recognize impending labor. After giving birth, untreated depression leads to an increased risk of maternal suicide and neonatal death.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Psychiatric Association recommend watching pregnant women for signs of depression and if necessary, treating them.

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From issue: 27/09-10