Is it safe to take antidepressants in pregnancy?

If you are offered medication for a mental health condition, make sure you understand the pros and cons before you decide on your treatment.

Pregnant woman talking to doctor

 Antidepressants aren’t usually recommended for pregnant women. But for some women the potential risks of taking the medication will outweigh the risks of not treating their condition.

Do not stop taking medication for mental health problems before talking to your doctor. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms. It could also make your symptoms come back or get worse.

If your healthcare professional thinks you may need to start taking or continue taking antidepressants they should explain the pros and cons clearly. They should also take into consideration and talk to you about:

  • what’s best for your stage of pregnancy
  • what mental health condition  you have
  • how your condition affects you
  • how quickly you’ve become unwell if you’ve stopped taking medication
  • what medications have helped you
  • if any medications have caused side effects
  • what other treatments you are having, such as talking therapy.

If you decide to take medication when you are pregnant you should be offered the type with the least risk for you and your baby. You should be offered the lowest amount that will still work and should usually not take more than 1 type.

If you would like to stop medication when you are pregnant, but medication is the best treatment for your condition, your doctor should talk to you about your reasons for wanting to stop medication and about the risks, if any, to you and your baby. 

If you understand the risks to you and your baby and still decide to stop medication, your doctor should talk to you about having cognitive behavioural therapy, if this is appropriate.

Warning

Don’t take St John’s Wort (although it can help with depression when you aren’t pregnant, we do not know if it is safe for pregnancy).

Breastfeeding

Antidepressants aren’t usually recommended if you are breastfeeding. But you and your healthcare professional may decide that the benefits of your treatment and the benefits of breastfeeding your baby outweigh the potential risks.

You may decide that you’re not comfortable taking medication while you’re breastfeeding. There may also be other reasons why breastfeeding is not for you. For example, you may not having any sleep because you’re up feeding the baby. This can impact your mental health, so you may choose to bottle feed so you can take turns with the baby’s father. There’s no need to feel guilty if you decide not to breastfeed. Your baby needs you to be well.

Talk to your healthcare professional about what will be best for you. They will be able to support you if you decide to bottle feed your baby.

Read more

  • Woman lying on sofa looking concerned.

    Will my medication affect my baby?

    Some types of medication for mental health problems have risks for your baby if you take them when you are pregnant or when you are breastfeeding.

  • A hand holding an array of different pills

    Drugs and medicines in pregnancy

    To be on the safe side it's best to talk to a health professional before taking any new drugs or medicines during pregnancy in case they might have any effect on the growing baby.

NHS Choices. Antidepressants https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antidepressants/ (Page last reviewed: 14/10/2015. Next review due: 01/10/2018)

NICE (2013) Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

Last reviewed on October 17th, 2018. Next review date October 17th, 2021.

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