Monday, 22 April 2013

Should a mum-to-be continue with antidepressant drugs whilst pregnant?

A few thoughts on "There's a Pill for That" by Anne Kingston, here.

It can be a difficult decision to make. Should a mum-to-be continue with antidepressant drugs whilst pregnant? In this press article conflicting views are presented. What about the risks of the mother’s depression? What about the risks of the drugs to the unborn child?

As you will see, in this article some doctors claim the drugs are 100% safe; however, others contest that antidepressants can cause all manner of damage to the unborn child, including damage to the developing brain, heart defects, an increased risk of miscarriage and even autism.

In this article Dr Healy is quoted as saying that “there’s no good data suggesting untreated depression is more dangerous to mother and child than SSRIs [antidepressants]”. He also warns that “Women often aren’t told about addiction risks or the difficulty of withdrawal, which creates problems if they become pregnant.” And yet, even the makers of Seroxat (US Paxil) have issued an advisory that this drug may pose “an increased risk” of cardiovascular defects when taken in the first trimester.

Though not mentioned in this article, I quote Dr Adam Urato, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Tufts University School of Medicine, in Boston:
“We are witnessing a large-scale human experiment. Never before have we chemically altered human foetal development on such a large scale…Many of the experts in this area receive funding from the anti-depressant majors. These experts continue to downplay the risks of these agents and to promote the benefits of their use in pregnancy.”
I mention some of the risks (including birth defects) of antidepressants here.

As antidepressants are so widely prescribed many mums-to-be will be taking them when they become pregnant.  Some doctors may then advise a careful withdrawal from these drugs to reduce the chance of risk to the unborn child. But this Dutch study indicates that the risk of birth defects continues 6-9 months after stopping these drugs.

Mick Bramham is an Existential Psychotherapist based in Dorset, UK.
He has a particular interest in ethical issues and also how our lives are shaped by the society, circumstances and culture in which we live.
Although he has serious concerns about the inappropriate and excessive use of mental health medications, he supports the freedom to choose (to take or not to take these drugs) and the right to be fairly informed of their limits and the risks. He offers support for people who are considering reducing or coming off psychiatric drugs.
He has a long-standing interest in non-clinical (and non-coercive) responses to mental and emotional distress. You can read more about his work and find his contact details here.

1 comment :

  1. I see that today's New York Times has an article on the risks of autism and antidepressant use. Worth a read. I see it also quotes Dr Urato.


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