Pharmacologic Treatments for Perinatal Depression/ Anxiety
Medications are used by many pregnant and breastfeeding women experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety. Though there are certain known risks, research over the last twenty years suggests that the benefits of taking medication often outweigh the risks of not treating the illness. For example, effects of maternal depression or anxiety may be more harmful to the fetus or the infant than the effects of medication that cross the placenta during pregnancy or transfer via breast milk. There is an abundance of research showing that untreated maternal depression can have both short and long term negative consequences both for the mother and the child. Possible complications include increased rate of pre-term birth, increased fussiness in the infant, and poorer developmental outcomes in childhood and adolescence.
Every woman who considers taking medication for depression and/or anxiety while pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a health care provider who is well informed about the very latest research. She also should be empowered to make the decision to take medication or not on her own and with her family. If a provider suggests that any medication for emotional health is absolutely not compatible with pregnancy or nursing, she should ask for the evidence to support this suggestion and/or ask for a second opinion. Below is a list of resources for both clients and health care providers for the safety of medication use in pregnancy and during breastfeeding.
- Mother-to-Baby is also known as Utah’s Pregnancy Risk line, providing answers about medications and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Please visit http://health.utah.gov/prl/ or call 1-800-8220BABY (2229).
- The Perinatal Mental Health Consultation Service at the University of Illinois provides free clinical consultation to providers regarding all aspects of diagnosis and treatment, including the use of psychotropic medications, during pregnancy and lactation. They can be reached via their website, psych.uic.edu/research/perinatalmentalhealth/ or at 1-800-573-6121.
- Thomas Hale at Texas Tech University is a world reknown expert on lactation and medication and is the author of Medications and Mothers’ Milk: www.ibreastfeeding.com. His other website, http://neonatal.ttuhsc.edu/lact/, provides an open forum for healthcare providers only, and has a searchable database on this subject.