[Pharmacologic therapy of depression during pregnancy]

Recenti Prog Med. 2006 Feb;97(2):94-107.
[Article in Italian]


The pregnancy is considered to be relatively high risk period for depressive episodes in women, particularly for those with pre-existing affective disorders. Epidemiological studies indicate that between 10% to 16% of pregnant women fulfil the diagnostic criteria for major depression and on average 20% is affected by an anxiety disorder. Pharmacological treatment of depression during pregnancy, however, brings with it certainties and dilemmas. It has been reported that untreated depression is associated with impaired feto-placental function, premature delivery, miscarriage, low fetal growth and perinatal unwanted effects. On the other hand, the use of antidepressant drugs in pregnancy might be at risk of major malformations (teratogenesis), neonatal toxicity, especially withdrawal symptoms and neuropsychological-behavioural impairment. In addition, the abrupt discontinuation of antidepressants, because of fear for adverse fetal effects, exposes women to serious clinical problems, in particular the disease relapse. A number of reviews indicates that among antidepressant drugs, the older SSRIs (in particular fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram) seem to be avoided of teratogenic risks; for these reasons such drugs are nowadays considered of choice for the treatment of depression during pregnancy. Less information is available for other drugs, including triciclycs, venlafaxine, mirtazapine, bupropion, escitalopram and duloxetine. Withdrawal symptoms have been reported for all antidepressants; these symptoms, however, were self-limiting in majority of cases and had a favourable outcome. Inconclusive findings emerge, so far, from the few longitudinal studies focusing on the long-term neurodevelopment outcome in children.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / etiology
  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / adverse effects
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Teratogens*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Teratogens