Depression, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder represent no threat to the health of pregnant women or their babies, although there may be slight risks associated with medications used to treat those conditions, according to new Yale study appearing Sept. 13 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
“I think a major take-home message is that women are not harming their babies if they have one of these psychiatric conditions,” said lead author Kimberly Yonkers, professor of psychiatry, epidemiology, and obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences, as well as director of the Center for Wellbeing of Women and Mothers.
The Yale team followed 2,654 women at 137 clinical practices in Connecticut and Massachusetts to assess the impact of psychiatric disorders on pregnancy outcomes.
They did not find that maternal or neonatal outcomes were worse in the women who had panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder compared to women without these conditions. They found that maternal use of benzodiazepine, commonly prescribed for panic and general anxiety disorder, led to slightly lower birthweight, and their babies needed additional ventilator support in 61 of 1,000 cases. Use of a common class of antidepressants known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors also shortened gestation by 1.8 days. Antidepressants were linked to hypertensive diseases in 53 out of 1000 pregnancies and led to more cases of minor respiratory interventions after birth.
“Many women require treatment with these medications during pregnancy, and these findings do not suggest they should discontinue treatment,” Yonkers said. “Instead, women should work together with their doctors to find the lowest possible dosages and adhere to good health habits like healthy diet and exercise and avoidance of cigarettes and alcohol.”
Heather S. Lipkind of Yale was senior author of the study, which was funded by National Institutes of Health. Yale’s Kathryn Gilstad-Hayden and Ariadna Forray are co-authors of the study.