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Study: Doctors Should Warn About Pregnancy Antidepressant Risks

New research is suggesting that doctors need to start explaining the risks of taking antidepressants during a pregnancy. In a review of 100 previous studies, researchers from several medical schools came to the concerning conclusion that antidepressants can cause serious risks for mothers and newborns. At the same time, they did not see any pregnancy or birth benefits from antidepressants to offset those risks.

The studies showed a significant risk of pregnancy complications for women who took antidepressants. These included a higher risk of miscarriage - the rate of miscarriages rose from 8 percent in the general population to between 12 and 16 percent for mothers on antidepressants during pregnancy. Other studies said antidepressants correlated with a doubling in the risk of preterm births.

Scientists do not yet know whether antidepressants have a long-term impact on children. However, almost one in three babies born to women who took antidepressants develop "newborn behavioral syndrome." This condition includes symptoms like constant crying, "jitteriness," feeding difficulties, and even breathing issues that can last for up to several weeks after birth.

This research was very careful to point out that it does not recommend discontinuing antidepressant doses for women with severe depression. Instead, the study recommends that doctors should carefully explain these risks to mothers so that they can make knowledgeable and informed decisions.

Now that this awareness is entering the medical field, doctors might have a legal responsibility to present this information. For example, if a mother does not know about the risks and suffers severe complications resulting from a preterm delivery, it could be a doctor's fault for not giving her the opportunity to choose to discontinue antidepressant doses.

Source: Boston Globe, "Antidepressant risks during pregnancy lead to tough treatment decisions," Deborah Kotz, Nov. 11, 2012 

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