New Study Shows No Increase in Birth Defects Due to Use of Antidepressants During Pregnancy

Does the use of antidepressants during pregnancy lead to birth defects? Researchers in the 1970s said yes, but a new study by researchers at Yale refutes that finding.

The earlier studies found that the use of antidepressants — specifically diazepam and chlordiazepoxide — during the first trimester of pregnancy led to birth defects such as facial clefts, cardiac malformations and others. Since then, there have been other studies with varying results, leaving doctors and pregnant women unsure of the safety of taking antidepressants for anxiety, depression or other forms of mental illness.

The newest answer is: Antidepressants are mostly safe.

Dr. Kimberly Yonkers, a psychiatrist and professor at Yale University who studies the effect of benzodiazepines and SSRI antidepressants on the pregnancies of women who have anxiety, depression and/or panic disorders, led a cohort study that was published last week. The study revealed that gestation was shortened, but only by an average of 3 days. Other findings were equally encouraging for women with panic and anxiety disorders.

While there are still some risks to taking antidepressants during pregnancy, Yonkers told NPR, “it should be reassuring that we’re not seeing a huge magnitude of an effect here.” Her study found there was an increase in C-section deliveries, pregnancy was shortened by an average of 3.6 days, and the babies of mothers who used antidepressants during pregnancy were more likely to need respiratory support immediately after birth.


Amanda Livingston

Amanda Livingston

Amanda Livingston is a recent graduate of Ithaca College, a New York City-based writer, and an aspiring children's book editor. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Publishing: Print and Digital Media at New York University.


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