Question: Is it safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women to take antidepressant medications?
Answer: The topic of whether women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be taking antidepressant medications is a controversial area. We do know that we want women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to minimize the use of any unnecessary medications. So certainly if it's possible for somebody who's pregnant or breastfeeding to do without an antidepressant medication, that can be a good thing.
At the same time, we do know that depression in and of itself is very harmful to an expectant mother, or the mother of a newborn baby. We know, for example, that mothers of newborns have difficulty forming strong attachments with their babies. So we know depression if it's untreated is a harmful state, a harmful condition. So it's desirable to have somebody who is either expecting or is taking care of a newborn not to be depressed.
We always advise that somebody who's thinking about starting an antidepressant who is pregnant or who is breastfeeding to consult with an expert in this area. The bottom line is that there have been many many studies of this particular area, and in general, antidepressant medications appear to be safe for either a developing fetus or for a newborn baby.
It's a complicated area -- the final results are not in -- but it does appear that on balance it is much better to be adequately treated for depression and to prevent a depression from coming back than it is to have the mother of a newborn baby suffer from an ongoing depressive illness.