For years, scientists believed that depression was a risk factor for premature births. The conclusions of a new scientific study indicate that this is not the case, showing that the real culprit here is antidepressants, the drugs used to treat depression.
The research argues that women who take antidepressants during pregnancy are at a higher risk of giving birth ahead of term. The mental condition has been exonerated of all responsibility for this connection.
These conclusions run contrary to established wisdom in the field of psychiatry. The work was led by experts at the Yale University, and is detailed in the latest online issue of the esteemed scientific journal Epidemiology, PsychCentral
Investigators say that women who fear their depression will harm their child can now be at ease. The widespread belief may have also contributed to exacerbating depression, which in turn required expecting women to take even more pills.
Still, the Yale team is cautioning pregnant women who are on antidepressants that they should not cease their treatments, or get alarmed by the new study. “Women did not ask to be depressed and yet they worry that their depression may affect their baby,” Dr. Kimberly Yonkers says.
“This study tells them they should not worry that they are somehow compromising their pregnancy because they are depressed,” explains the team member, who holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry, and of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, at the university.
“And when considering whether to take medication for depression, women should understand that the risk of preterm birth is only one of many factors they should weigh,” she goes on to say.
Taking antidepressants of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) class increases the risk of late preterm births, which are births that occur after the 34th week of gestation, but before the 37th week, as is normal. This time interval is not very damaging to the newborns.
The most dangerous preterm births are early ones, which occur before the 34th week of pregnancy. These are the ones that should be avoided at all costs. The new study was carried out on 3,000 women.
“A woman should always consult with her doctor, but if she is symptomatic and suffering, the use of antidepressants may be indicated,” Yonkers concludes.