Study: Pregnancy No Cure For Depression

Many health care professionals have believed that pregnancy protects a woman from depression, even if the woman has suffered from depression before becoming pregnant. But a new study suggests that’s not the case. Lisa Kirshenbaum, for example, has suffered from depression for 20 years. Antidepressants really help her, but when she got pregnant five years ago, she took her psychiatrist’s advice. “He had given me information that I needed to go off all my medication and that pregnancy just created a natural high, and that your body just adjusted and there was no risk really of depression,” she said. But her depression came back, severely. She ended up miscarrying. When she got pregnant again, she stayed on her antidepressants, under the watchful eye of Dr. Lee Cohen, who has co-authored a new study about depression and pregnancy. “We looked at women during pregnancy with histories of depression who were on antidepressants, and who chose either to continue or to discontinue those antidepressants during pregnancy,” said Cohen. Dr. Cohen and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital and three other institutions tracked about 200 women through their pregnancies. Their findings appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “We found that patients who stopped their antidepressant during pregnancy were five times more likely to have return of depressive symptoms than those patients who had decided to continue their antidepressant during pregnancy,” said Cohen. That’s essentially the same rate of depression that women who are not pregnant suffer when they go off their antidepressants.”Counter to what we may have believed or been told in the past, it does appear from these data that pregnancy does not protect women against depression during pregnancy,” said Cohen. Kirshenbaum can attest to that. She ultimately gave birth to a healthy girl, now 2-years old, and has advice for other women who suffer from depression. “I think they need to seek expert advice on what they should do on an individual basis,” she said. “I don’t advocate for medication, I advocate for expert advice before making decisions.” Past research suggests that most antidepressants are safe for mother and child during pregnancy, and that depression can have negative effects on a pregnancy. But women should always talk with their doctors before taking any medications while pregnant.