What You Need to Know About Mental Health Medications and Pregnancy

Today, I had the honor of going to a March of Dimes editorial luncheon that focused on the risks and benefits of mental health medications during pregnancy. March of Dimes is an organization that is near and dear to our hearts, as our very own American Baby/Parents editor-in-chief Dana Points is the chair of its National Communications Advisory Council. This year, March of Dimes is celebrating its 75th anniversary and continues to work toward helping women have healthy, full-term babies.

Mental health medications, and medications in general, have become more common in our society, and that extends to pregnant women. According to the CDC, about 90% of women take at least one medication during pregnancy. Roughly 70% percent take at least one prescription medication. But just how safe is it to take medications, specifically mental health medications, when you have a baby on the way? There is no concrete answer to this question.

According to Dr. Christina Chambers, director of Clinical Research at Rady Children’s Hospital and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California San Diego, it can be difficult to know for sure what role any given drug may have played in causing a birth defect. One out of every 33 babies has some type of birth defect regardless of whether Mom took any prescription drugs.

The decision to take these medications should be made on a case-by-case basis, and pregnant woman should only stop taking them with their doctor’s approval. Dr. Kimberly Yonkers, director of the PMS and Perinatal Psychiatric Research Program at Yale University, emphasized the importance of balancing possible risks and benefits of any medications given to the mother and the baby. For some women, it may be best to stick to their regimen, while other women can go off their medication under close supervision.

For more information about drug use during pregnancy, you can visit the March of Dimes page.

Image: Closeup portrait of a 4 month old baby via glayan/Shutterstock.com

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