Mass General Hospital

Harvard Medical School

Preventing Depression During Pregnancy

Women who take antidepressants for their depression must make a difficult decision when they plan to become pregnant. Should they continue their medication during pregnancy? Or should they stop? Although there is information to support the reproductive safety of at least some antidepressants, most women, understandably concerned about exposing their babies to medication, choose to discontinue their antidepressant during pregnancy.

We have found that many women, after stopping medication, become depressed during pregnancy. Is there anything that can be done to prevent this from happening? Although having a healthy lifestyle- eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise and a good night’s sleep – certainly can’t hurt, we are not yet sure if these interventions reduce a woman’s risk for depression during pregnancy. There are certain types of psychotherapy, including interpersonal psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy, which may be helpful in preventing depression and anxiety. For some people with a seasonal component to their depression (or seasonal affective disorder), light therapy may also be useful. For some women, however, it seems that the best way to prevent depression during pregnancy is to maintain treatment with an antidepressant.

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

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