Pregnancy and antidepressants

News raises more confounding concerns for depressed expectant mothers.

By Rebecca Traister
Published February 9, 2006 11:00PM (EST)

It has been a week of head scratching (and probably head hanging) for women who are pregnant or plan to get pregnant soon, and who also take antidepressants.

After two studies released earlier in the week -- one reporting that women who stopped taking their meds during pregnancy relapsed more than two and a half times more than women who didn't, and one demonstrating that 30 percent of babies exposed to SSRIs while in the womb experience withdrawal symptoms after birth -- today's New York Times adds another hatch mark to the "con" column.

A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that women who took antidepressants in the late stages of pregnancy were significantly more likely to give birth to babies with a rare and potentially fatal breathing disorder called persistent pulmonary hypertension than were those who did not. According to researchers, the disorder typically strikes one to two babies in 1,000; babies exposed to anidepressants in the last months of pregnancy experienced it at a rate almost six times as high.

Studies like this provide women with vital information about medical risks, which is great. What's not great is that there is currently no happy solution: The affliction of maternal depression versus the risk of infant withdrawal and pulmonary disorder is a choice that no one wants to weigh, let alone have to make the final call on.

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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