Depression’s rebirth in pregnant women

Although sometimes touted as natural mood enhancers, hormonal changes during pregnancy offer no biological protection against major depression for expectant mothers who temporarily stop taking their antidepressant drugs, a new study finds.

Among 82 women who continued to use previously prescribed antidepressants throughout their pregnancies, 21, or 26 percent, experienced a recurrence of depression, says a team led by psychiatrist Lee S. Cohen of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. In contrast, 44 of 65 women, or 68 percent, who discontinued antidepressant medications sank back into depression during their pregnancies, the researchers report in the Feb. 1 Journal of the American Medical Association.

Cohen’s group studied pregnant women who had experienced depression before pregnancy and were receiving treatment at medical centers in Atlanta, Boston, or Los Angeles. Each woman completed monthly psychiatric interviews beginning no later than 16 weeks after conception.

Earlier research supports women’s concerns about the toxic effects of prenatal exposure to antidepressants. The new findings illustrate that untreated depression during pregnancy may also present dangers, the researchers suggest.

Bruce Bower

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.

From the Nature Index

Paid Content