A new study has been released suggesting that for the first time in a long time, the use of antidepressants during pregnancy is actually decreasing. Though that may sound like a good thing, researchers are worried that the decrease is for the wrong reasons.
Looking at Denmark specifically, 10-15% of pregnant women show signs of depression. Within that group, there is a wide variety of causes and some had symptoms before pregnancy was even established. The National Centre for Register-Based Research and the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University conducted a study to see just how much of a decrease there has been over the past few years in terms of antidepressant consumption by pregnant women.
The results of the study, which were published in the scientific journal Brain and Behavior, showed that since 2011, there has been a 33% decrease in the use of antidepressants during pregnancy. Given that drastic decline, researchers are curious as to why. The most logical explanation is rising safety concerns surrounding popular medications such as citalopram.
Postdoc Julie Werenberg Dreier from the National Centre for Register-Based Research at Aarhus University explains that citalopram was one of the most prescribed serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in Denmark. ScienceDaily reports that the US Food and Drug Administration released major concerns surrounding citalopram and heart issues in August of 2011 (conveniently, the same year the decrease began).
Though that reason is not definitive, the research team did determine that the drastic decline probably isn't due to maternal age or psychiatric disorders themselves. Jakob Christensen, who is a clinical associate professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University and consultant at the Department of Neurology at Aarhus University Hospital explains that the decrease is so substantial that it's becoming concerning as to whether depression is decreasing or the treatment of depression is.
Christensen states that "in general, the use of antidepressants during pregnancy is considered to be safe, but questions have arisen concerning a slightly increased risk of congenital malformations and psychiatric symptoms in children where the mother has taken antidepressants during pregnancy. It's natural to suppose that some women have chosen not to take the medicine because they were worried that the child could be harmed."
That being said, Christensen stresses that depressive symptoms shouldn't be ignored despite the safety concerns surrounding some antidepressant medications during pregnancy. Depressive symptoms can worsen with pregnancy and especially postpartum, so they should be addressed as soon as they present themselves.
"The risk for the child must then be balanced with the risk of depression in the mother. An untreated depression can have major consequences for both the mother and the newborn child, for example by not thriving or in a worst-case in the form of suicidal thoughts," Christensen concludes.