Avoiding Malpractice While Treating Depression in Pregnant Women

Susan Hatters Friedman, MD Ryan C.W. Hall, MD


Curr Psychiatr. 2021;20(8):30-36. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Many physicians have seen advertisements that encourage women who took an antidepressant while they were pregnant and had a negative outcome to contact a law firm. These ads could make patients more reluctant to take prescribed antidepressants, and psychiatrists more hesitant to prescribe necessary medications during pregnancy—which is a disservice to the mother and child.

More recently, several headline-grabbing studies appeared to suggest that there is an increased risk to infants who are exposed to antidepressants prenatally. Unfortunately, many patients do not understand that replication of these studies is often lacking, and methodological and confounding issues abound. All of this makes it difficult for patients and their families to know if they should take an antidepressant during pregnancy, and for psychiatrists to know what to discuss about the risks and benefits of various antidepressants during pregnancy. This article reviews the rationale for treatment of depression in pregnancy; the risks of untreated depression in pregnancy, as well as the potential risks of medication; ethical issues in the treatment of depression in pregnancy; the limitations of available research; and best approaches for practice.