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Are antidepressants safe to take during pregnancy?

New study finds some antidepressants may not increase risk for infant death. (iStockphoto)
Taken during pregnancy, some drugs may not increase risk of infant death

THE QUESTION Treating a pregnant woman’s depression with antidepressants can pose a range of problems, some of them serious. Might they include death of the child?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 1,633,877 women who gave birth in about a 10-year span, including 29,228 who took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants during pregnancy. Among the babies delivered, 6,054 were stillborn, 3,609 died within 27 days of birth and 1,578 died when they were 28 days to 1 year old. The risk of stillbirth or infant death was no greater for women who took this type of antidepressant than it was for those who did not.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Pregnant women with depression, which is usually treated with antidepressants, talk therapy or both. Depression affects about one in eight pregnant women.

CAVEATS The raw data for the study showed a somewhat higher rate of stillbirth and infant death among women who had taken antidepressants (about five stillbirths per 1,000 births vs. four per 1,000, for example); that difference disappeared after adjusting for other factors that might affect these outcomes, including the mother’s age, her psychiatric history and whether she smoked. No data were available on alcohol intake or any illegal drug use. Use of antidepressants other than SSRIs was not evaluated, nor was any side effect or outcome other than infant death.

The study was funded by the Swedish Pharmacy Co.

FIND THIS STUDY Jan. 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

LEARN MORE ABOUT depression and pregnancy at Learn about antidepressant use during pregnancy at .

Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment’s effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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