The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has released a meta-analysis “Evidence Report” of the studies into the benefits and harms of antidepressant treatments during and after pregnancy. Prepared by the Portland-based Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center, the research team’s analysis included all studies published before July 2013. Overall, the team determined that not enough research has been done to provide clear guidance on benefits or harms, though they did identify several concerns about newborns.
The team found “low-strength evidence” suggesting that SSRIs create a higher risk of respiratory distress in newborn infants. They found “insufficient” evidence to draw conclusions about possible increases in birth defects when pregnant mothers take antidepressants – though they suggested more research in this area seemed to be warranted. “Although the absolute increased risk of autism spectrum disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in the child associated with antidepressant use for depression in pregnancy may be very small, this issue also merits attention in future research,” they wrote.
The team concluded that, “Evidence about the comparative benefits and harms of pharmacological treatment of depression in pregnant and postpartum women was largely inadequate to allow well-informed decisions about treatment.”
Antidepressant Treatment of Depression During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, July 8, 2014)