The truth about depression treatment during pregnancy

HOUSTONThe Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Psychiatry) recently released findings that common medications for anxiety, panic disorders, insomnia and depression do not increase adverse outcomes in childbirth. 

It said, in some cases pregnancy was shortened by a few days when mothers took these medications, but nothing that experts believe to be harmful to the baby.

When weighing the risks, Kelsey-Seybold Obstetrics and Gynecologist's Dr. Megan Pallister said it's more beneficial for depressed patients to get the help they need than avoid medications.

“There are more studies, more and more every year, so we definitely think there are a few [prescriptions] that are safer in pregnancy. We counsel the patient on the possible risks and benefits and if we think that it's important to start medication, then we will,” she said.

Although she said the patients always have the option to try therapy first, depression during and after pregnancy is more common than you think.

Pallister said depression affects one in ten pregnant women. Other studies show it could be more than that. 

The risk factors can add up and make some women more likely to feel blue than others.

Risk factors, according to Pallister include:
-history of depression
-women who've had a lot of pregnancies
-women who've had miscarriages
-history of pregnancies with complications

And depression during pregnancy increases your chance of having post-partum depression.

“If they're showing signs during the first trimester, second trimester, I have no hesitation putting them on medications,” Pallister said. “Then postpartum, definitely we want to look out, right in the hospital that second day… after delivery you want to look for signs that they're going into depression or they have risk factors for developing it when they go home.”

She says "baby blues," an emotional time that happens after delivery, only lasts two weeks. After that, it is serious depression and may require counseling or medications.

Pallister said medications that your doctor prescribes to treat depression are safe for breastfeeding, and won't necessarily be required forever. However, she warns not to stop taking the medications without guidance from your doctor as that could potentially bring on more harm.

Moms who experience signs of depression, such as weight loss or loss of interest in hobbies, should tell their doctor.