Antidepressant use during the last trimester of pregnancy has long been suspected to put babies at risk of respiratory failure. But a recent study from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston asserts that such drugs pose little risk to the fetus.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about consuming antidepressants during pregnancy in 2006. Since then, pregnant women suffering from depression have been in a fix, caught between their own well-being and fears for their babies.
The FDA cited a single study to suggest that use of antidepressants may lead to a condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns. But the new study contradicts those findings.
According to the Boston researchers, antidepressants pose very little, or nearly negligible risk to the newborns. The team looked at nearly 3.8 million pregnant mothers across the U.S. who were taking various antidepressant drugs during pregnancy.
The researchers found that the risk of pulmonary hypertension did not seem to be heightened significantly by the common antidepressants.
"The risk increase of taking antidepressants late in pregnancy, if present, is much more modest than previous studies have found," said lead researcher Krista Huybrechts, in a statement. "So for women with severe, debilitating depression that is not responsive to other non-pharmacological treatments, this should be reassuring information."
Dr. Katherine Economy from Brigham further stressed the importance of an antidepressant in the life of a pregnant woman who struggles to complete day-to-day tasks.
"And for many women, they cannot get through their daily activities, getting out of bed, taking a shower, and preparing food for themselves. So for many of these women, these medications are life-saving and life-altering."