Pregnancy and Medication for Women With Anxiety and Depression

  • Pregnancy is such a joyous occasion. But for many women who have an anxiety disorder or depression, a nagging question remains: "Is it safe to take medication while I'm pregnant?"

    Preoccupation, worry, and guilt can become overwhelming, but take heart: There is no one correct answer because the decision about treatment is unique for each and every woman.

    Your anxiety or depression will not disappear during your pregnancy, so it's essential that you get treatment. Anxiety disorders-like panic disorder, OCD, or PTSD-and related disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, are just as real and serious as diabetes or asthma.

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    Fortunately, effective treatments are available. Consult your doctor about your treatment options when you are planning to start a family or learn that you are pregnant. Not treating your illness can pose risks to your unborn child. So here are some facts and options to consider.

    Don't stop taking your medication when you find out that you're pregnant. The decision to discontinue your medication should be done only under the supervision of your doctor so you can address any side effects immediately. Talk to your OB-GYN as well as the doctor who prescribed the medication to determine what's best for you.

    No medication is ever 100 percent risk-free, so weigh the risks with your doctor. To learn about risks of anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications taken during pregnancy*, consult a recent report (October 2009) from the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.


    Taking SSRIs may pose an increased risk of birth defects, and during the third trimester they may also cause a neonatal syndrome of irritability, poor feeding, sleep disturbance, and other symptoms lasting from a few days to about a week. Also check the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and ask your doctor about warnings about potential and new risks with the medication you take.

    You may also want to consider effective treatments that do not involve medication, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, also called CBT or talk therapy. These may replace or supplement your medication before, during, or after pregnancy.

    The Anxiety Disorders Association of America provides detailed information about treatment options, including talk therapy and medication. You can also find a therapist trained to treat anxiety disorders on this website.

    Anxiety disorders and depression are serious illnesses. You will find peace of mind when you are pregnant when you discuss the available treatment options with your doctor. Treating anxiety, along with exercise and eating right, are steps you can take to keep yourself and your baby healthy.

    PLEASE NOTE: The Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) does not endorse or promote any specific medications or treatments.


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Published On: October 13, 2009