Last week came research published on the effect of taking antidepressants on the developmental milestones of infants for those women who have depression during pregnancy.
Using data on more than 81,000 babies born in Denmark, researchers found that children whose mothers took antidepressants during the second or third trimester sat without support later and walked later than children of depressed mothers who did not take medication. This was especially true for boys.
Despite the delays, the children’s progress was still well within the bounds of normal development, the researchers noted. Children whose mothers took antidepressants sat about 16 days later and walked nearly a month later than the children of mothers who didn’t take the drugs …
Despite some concerns, Dr. Diane Ashton, deputy medical director of the March of Dimes and an ob-gyn, urged women not to make any hasty decisions about discontinuing the drugs and to consult with their doctors first.
“For the most part, we feel it’s important for women to be adequately treated for depression during pregnancy,” Ashton said. “Depending on the severity of the symptoms, you may not have a choice. If the mother is depressed or suicidal to the point of hurting herself, she needs treatment.”
Dr. Ariel Dalfen, who is a psychiatrist and expert on postpartum depression at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, says that although it’s prudent to pay attention to these kinds of studies, it’s important to emphasize to patients that the results were inconclusive because “people get very scared.” And while she acknowledges that every patient’s situation is different, she says that women on antidepressants should never decide to go off their medication on their own.
“When people need to be on these medications, you have to balance the very small potential for side effects that haven’t been well-documented with the need to treat their problem,” she says. “We never want to take any prescribed treatments lightly, because there is always a small possibility that there could be negative effects on the fetus. But you need to make sure you’re balancing all the risks and benefits, including the risks of having an untreated depression during pregnancy.”