Management of psychotropic drugs during pregnancy

BMJ. 2016 Jan 20;532:h5918. doi: 10.1136/bmj.h5918.


Psychiatric conditions (including substance misuse disorders) are serious, potentially life threatening illnesses that can be successfully treated by psychotropic drugs, even during pregnancy. Because few rigorously designed prospective studies have examined the safety of these drugs during pregnancy, the default clinical recommendation has been to discontinue them, especially during the first trimester. However, in the past decade, as more evidence has accumulated, it seems that most psychotropic drugs are relatively safe to use in pregnancy and that not using them when indicated for serious psychiatric illness poses a greater risk to both mother and child, including tragic outcomes like suicide and infanticide. This review presents an up to date and careful examination of the most rigorous scientific studies on the effects of psychotropic drugs in pregnancy. The lack of evidence in several areas means that definite conclusions cannot be made about the risks and benefits of all psychotropic drug use in pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antimanic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antimanic Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors